United States District Court, D. New Jersey
BRANDON J. FRITZ, Petitioner,
CHARLES E. WARREN, JR., et al., Respondents.
L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Brandon J. Fritz (“Fritz” or
“Petitioner”), commenced this proceeding by
filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus, under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. (Pet., ECF No. 1.) The Court denied his petition
on May 21, 2015. (ECF Nos. 24 & 25.) Presently before the
Court is a motion by Fritz seeking relief from that Opinion
and Order, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). (ECF
No. 25.) Fritz has also repeatedly filed a “motion to
accept confidential appendix, ” each of which seems to
pertain to the same exhibits to his Rule 60(b) motion.
(See ECF Nos. 27-31.) Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 78, these motions are decided without oral
argument, and, for the following reasons, the motions to
accept a “confidential appendix” are GRANTED
insofar as the Court will consider the included documents as
exhibits to the Rule 60(b) motion and the Rule 60(b) motion,
however, is DENIED.
Court's prior Opinion recites the underlying facts and
procedural history in detail, only the most pertinent,
undisputed facts are here repeated. In May 2006, Fritz
kidnapped and raped a 20-year-old woman. Around 10 weeks
later, Fritz broke into another woman's home and
attempted to rape her. (See ECF No. 24 at 2.) Fritz
pleaded guilty, in November 2007, to charges of first-degree
kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault, and second-degree
burglary, in an exchange for dismissal of other charges and a
recommendation that his sentence not exceed 40 years.
(See Ans., Ex. D, Plea Form, ECF No. 16-6.) The
trial judge sentenced Fritz to 40 years imprisonment.
(See Ans., Exs. B & C, ECF Nos. 16-4 &
16-5.) Fritz appealed the length of his sentence, which the
New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, affirmed.
(See Ans., Ex. E, Order (Jan. 7, 2009), State v.
Fritz, Docket No. A-004425-07T4 ( N.J.Super. Ct., App.
Div.), ECF No. 16-7.) The Supreme Court of New Jersey denied
a petition for certification. State v. Fritz, 973
A.2d 944 (N.J. 2009).
acting through counsel, filed a petition for post-conviction
relief (“PCR”), arguing that his acceptance of
the plea deal was the product of ineffective assistance of
counsel (“IAC”), and, thus, was not knowing and
voluntary. (Ans., Ex. H, Pet. for PCR Relief, ECF No. 16-10,
at 12-19.) Specifically, Fritz asserted that trial counsel
misled and coerced him into accepting the plea by telling him
that his sentences would run concurrently, resulting in a
27-year aggregate prison term, but, instead, the deal
permitted consecutive sentences, thus subjecting him to a
40-year aggregate term. (Id. at 14-15.) This PCR
petition was denied. (Ans., Ex. J, Order Denying PCR (May 12,
2010), State v. Fritz, Indict. No. 06-10-1619 (
N.J.Super. Ct., Ocean Cty., Law Div.), ECF No. 16-12.) The
denial was affirmed on appeal. State v. Fritz,
Docket No. A-4565-09T4, 2011 WL 4577752 ( N.J.Super. Ct.,
App. Div. Oct 5, 2011). The New Jersey Supreme Court denied
another petition for certification. State v. Fritz,
40 A.3d 57 (N.J. 2012).
also filed a second state PCR petition, raising, among other
arguments, that his PCR counsel provided ineffective
assistance by failing to raise all issues Fritz asked him to
and that the PCR court should have reversed the underlying
conviction because the trial court did not hold a competency
hearing. (See Ans., Exs. Q & Z, ECF Nos. 16-19
& 16-28.) The second state PCR petition was dismissed
while Fritz completed the appeal of his first PCR petition,
but was revived when Fritz subsequently refiled his second
PCR petition. (See Ans., Exs. V-Z, ECF Nos. 16-24
Fritz filed with this Court a petition for writ of habeas
corpus, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, on December 7, 2012.
(ECF No. 1.) The Petition raised four grounds for relief:
1. ineffectiveness of trial counsel, by failing to pursue a
competency evaluation, failing to seek funds to retain an
expert witness, and for rendering the plea unknowing or
2. ineffectiveness of appellate counsel;
3. ineffectiveness of PCR counsel; and
4. imposition of an excessive sentence.
(Id.) After Respondents had answered the Petition,
Fritz sought a protective stay of the proceeding to permit
him to exhaust his claim of ineffective assistance of PCR
counsel before the state courts. (ECF Nos. 18 & 20.) The
Court denied the stay motion, finding that the only
unexhausted ground was alleged ineffective assistance of PCR
counsel, which is not a cognizable claim under § 2254.
(ECF No. 23.)
21, 2015, the Court issued an Opinion and Order denying
Fritz's habeas petition on the merits. (ECF Nos. 24 &
25.) The Court found appropriate the Appellate Division's
affirmance of the denial of Fritz's IAC claim concerning
plea negotiations because there was no evidence that Fritz
had been misled or coerced into accepting his plea deal and
as, in fact, the evidence showed that Fritz understood the
plea deal and entered into it voluntarily. (ECF No. 24 at
9-10.) The Court further found that the state courts had not
acted unreasonably by denying relief on Fritz's IAC
arguments regarding the failure to obtain a competency
evaluation or seek funds for an expert witness on the basis,
given the significant evidence before ...