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Bridinger v. Haas

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 14, 2018

LEON BRIDINGER, Petitioner,
v.
RANDY HAAS, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          DAVID M. LAWSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Leon Bridinger broke into his stepsister's house in Ionia County, Michigan, where she discovered him when he tried to slide into her bed. He was completely naked at the time. As a result of that conduct, Bridinger was convicted of third-degree home invasion and sentenced to prison as a fourth habitual offender. His appeals through the Michigan courts were unsuccessful, and, although presently he is on parole, he now seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Bridinger has raised a variety of issues, which replicate the claims of error raised in his state appellate court briefs. They are set out in detail below. The Court does not find merit in any of them, and therefore the petition will be denied.

         I.

         The petitioner's conviction arises from his unlawful entry into his stepsister's home in North Plains Township, Ionia County, Michigan during the early morning hours on August 20, 2010. According to the Michigan Court of Appeals's opinion on direct review,

[o]nce inside his stepsister's home, defendant, who was naked, attempted to enter the bed in which his stepsister was sleeping. Defendant's stepsister recognized defendant on the night of the incident and found his wallet at her house. The stepsister testified at trial that defendant intended to climb into her bed, but “[n]ot to sleep. I guarantee it.” The jury convicted defendant of third-degree home invasion, predicated on his commission of the underlying misdemeanor offense of indecent exposure inside his stepsister's home.

People v. Bridinger, No. 303248, 2013 WL 5663224, *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 17, 2013) (unpublished).

         At trial, the petitioner's stepsister, Marilyn Fedewa, testified that she lived alone in her house at the time of the incident. The petitioner lived about one quarter of a mile away at his mother's house. Fedewa kept her doors locked, but left a window open because she believed that no one could get inside. The petitioner did not have a key to Fedewa's home, but he was welcome to visit when he was sober. The petitioner's mother, Dorothy Silvernail, had a key to use for an emergency. Fedewa did not believe that the petitioner knew where that key was kept.

         On Friday, August 20, 2010, at about 1:30 a.m., Fedewa was awakened from sleep by her puppy. She saw a naked, white-haired man getting ready to climb into her bed. She was scared and fled her house, wearing only a nightgown. She grabbed her puppy and her cell phone on the way out. She could not get her phone to work. She then realized that the petitioner was the naked man in her bedroom and went back inside the house. On the floor lay her window shutter and the petitioner's clothes. By then the petitioner was standing near her table, still naked as a jaybird. She screamed at him to leave, but he sat down and told her to calm down. But she continued to scream at him so that he would leave. Taking the hint, he began to gather his clothes; she threw the rest outside. When he left, she slammed her door shut and locked it. She also grabbed a baseball bat and a knife and sat in a chair in her bedroom. She could not sleep. She did not call 911 because her phone still would not work.

         Fedewa saw that her riding lawn mower had been moved from her shed to near the house and a corner of a window screen had been cut, which led her to believe that the petitioner entered her house through a window. On her picnic table in the yard, she also discovered other less-than-subtle signs of his presence: two unopened Busch Light beer cans and the petitioner's wallet. She did not know if the petitioner was drunk that night because she did not go near him.

         Fedewa told her neighbor what had happened, but she did not initially contact the police because the petitioner was her stepbrother and she did not want to upset his mother, Dorothy Silvernail. Nonetheless, she went to Silvernail's house later that afternoon and told her what had happened. Silvernail was upset and then angry. Fedewa gave her the petitioner's wallet to prove that she was telling the truth.

         Fedewa continued to have trouble sleeping. The following Monday, after talking to a neighbor and a detective that she knew, she reported the incident to the police. On Tuesday, the police photographed her home and took the beer cans.

         The police did not find any fingerprints on the beer cans. They found four fingerprints on the window, but were not able to identify them. The police subsequently arrested the petitioner.

         At trial, Dorothy Silvernail testified that the petitioner and his brother went out on Thursday, August 19, 2010 to celebrate the petitioner's birthday. She said that the petitioner returned home around 12:30 or 12:45 a.m. and was very drunk. It was the worst she had ever seen him. She yelled at him to go to bed. Silvernail recalled Fedewa coming over the next morning with a wallet, but did not remember saying much to her. When the police came to Silvernail's house to investigate, she did not say that the petitioner had come home drunk that night, but she did admit that Fedewa brought over a wallet and put it on her computer desk. Silvernail denied telling the police that the petitioner drank Busch Light beer, but the trooper testified otherwise.

         The petitioner's brother, Richard Bridinger, confirmed that he picked up the petitioner that Thursday night and took him to a few bars to celebrate his birthday. They drank whiskey and cola before going to a friend's house to look for Richard's lost dog. At about midnight, Silvernail called Richard on his cellphone. After the call, Richard returned to his own house with the petitioner, where they drank Busch Light beer. He said the petitioner walked home at about 12:20 or 12:30 a.m., although he told the police earlier that the petitioner left his house at 1:00 a.m.

         While the petitioner was in jail awaiting trial, he spoke regularly with his mother. The police recorded several of those calls - 14 of them - and some were received in evidence at trial. In one call, the petitioner threatened to provide evidence against Fedewa's sons and their involvement in illegal drugs, in exchange for a deal with the prosecutor. In another, he expressed confidence in his trial outcome, because he thought all the evidence against him was “circumstantial.” But he also told Silvernail to mold her testimony about the time he returned home on the night of the crime to support an alibi, which he anticipated his brother Richard would do. And in another, the petitioner told his mother that he had sent her a letter for her and Richard to read and then destroy. He assured Silvernail that he knew what he was doing.

         The petitioner did not testify on his own behalf. At the close of trial, the jury found the petitioner guilty of third-degree home invasion. The trial court subsequently sentenced him as a fourth habitual offender to four to 20 years in prison.

         The petitioner filed a direct appeal, raising the same claims presented here, which are set forth below. He was represented by counsel in his first-level appeal, although he also filed an additional brief on his own that supplemented the claims presented by his attorney. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence, Bridinger, 2013 WL 303248 at *1-9, and the state supreme court denied leave to appeal, People v. Bridinger, 495 Mich. 980, 843 N.W.2d 769, reconsideration denied, 496 Mich. 869, 849 N.W.2d 350 (2014).

         The petitioner then filed his federal habeas petition. He raises the following claims:

I. The evidence was insufficient to prove indecent exposure, and thus insufficient to prove the charged offense, third-degree home invasion predicated on the commission of indecent exposure.
II. The trial court plainly erred by instructing on only two of the three elements of indecent exposure, where indecent exposure was itself an element of the charged offense. In the alternative, trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to the defective instruction.
III. The district court failed its judicial oversight duties, and thus violated Petitioner's constitutional right to due process, and equal protection under the law, as stated in, both, Michigan Constitution 1963, Article I, §§ 2, 13, 17, & 20; and, Article VI, § 13; and United States Constitution, Amendments V, VI, VII, and XIV, § 1 by its failure to oversee the prosecution's procedures to initially charge Petitioner (in District Court, Case # 101449-FY), with a second count, in the original information which would subsequently include the indecent exposure statute, Mich. Comp. Law 750.335a (a Misdemeanor), and thus fulfilling the elemental requirements under Mich. Comp. Law 750.110a(4), of the Home Invasion third-degree statute.
IV. The trial court failed in its judicial oversight duties, and thus violated Petitioner's constitutional right to due process, and equal protection under the law, as stated in, both, Michigan Constitution 1963, Article I, §§ 2, 13, 17, & 20; and, Article VI, § 13; and United States Constitution, Amendments V, VI, VII, and XIV, § 1, by its failure to oversee the prosecution's procedures to:
A. Obtain a proper “complaint felony, ” against Petitioner, clearly stating the name of the victim, or complainant, and subsequently signed by the same victim, or complainant, rather than the complaining witness (the Officer, taking the Complaint, from the Complainant).
B. Initially charge Petitioner (in District Court, Case # 101449-FY), with a second count, in the original charge under Mich. Comp. Law 750.110a(4), which would subsequently include the indecent exposure statute, Mich. Comp. Law 750.335a (a Misdemeanor), and thus fulfilling the elemental requirements of the Home Invasion third degree statute.
C. Failing to allow the objection by trial counsel [and] request for a continuance, or a postponement of the trial, for reasons of illness.
D. Improperly scor[ing] Petitioner's OV, and PRV, and thus causing wrongful sentencing by the trial court.
E. Wrongfully enhanc[ing] Petitioner's sentence.
F. Redact[ing] an[] uncertified copy of a C.D., or audiotape, of Petitioner's jail phone conversation with his mother, which was played for the jury during the course of trial.
V. The prosecution unconscionably violated Petitioner's constitutional right to due process, and equal protection under the law, as stated in, both, Michigan Constitution 1963, Article I, §§ 2, 13, 17, & 20; and, Article VI, § 13; and United States Constitution, Amendments V, VI, VII, and XIV, § 1, by:
A. Failing to obtain a proper “complaint felony, ” stating the name of the victim, or complainant, and subsequently signed by the same named victim, or complainant, not a/the complaining witness (the Officer, taking the Complaint, from the Complainant).
B. Failing to initially charge the petitioner (in District Court, Case # 101449-FY), with a second count, in the original information, which would thus include the indecent exposure statute, Mich. Comp. Law 750.335a (a Misdemeanor), and hence fulfilling the elemental requirements of the Home Invasion third degree statute.
C. Failing to obtain a proper arrest warrant, until the day after the actual arrest, and, according to the documentation provided, it is not clear, for certain, as to what date the actual arrest was made.
D. Failing to date, and sign, the initial information felony form.
E. Going contrary to the charges set forth in the information did [sic] the prosecution have jury instruction CJ2d 20.33 indecent exposure, read to the jury, before they went into deliberations.
F. The prosecution not having the authority, during trial, to request the jury instruction CJ2d 20.33 indecent exposure, be read to the jury in the first place, due to there having been a properly executed, second included charge, of indecent exposure, under Mich. Comp. Law 750.335a (a Misdemeanor).
G. Failing to admit jury instruction CJ2d 20.33 for the indecent exposure charge, during the discovery process, and during the course of the scheduling conference, was the prosecution allowed under M.C.R. 6.201(A & B), to add the second charge for the indecent exposure charge (at the Circuit Court Level), as the first, or second, amended information felony: to wit, must all requests for discovery pursuant to M.C.R. 6.201(A & B), be filed with the court, and served upon all of the parties, no later than 14 days from the date of the schedule order.
H. Admitting an uncertified, redacted, copy of a C.D., or audiotape, of Petitioner's jail phone conversation with his mother, ...

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