FRESNO Retired Stanislaus County sheriff's Capt. Raul DeLeon took the stand in his own defense Thursday, telling jurors in a polite but firm tone that he never tried to thwart the investigation of the Road Dog cycle shop and never intentionally lied to investigators.
If he made statements that investigators thought were lies, DeLeon said, it was because he didn't remember the information they were asking about. "I wish now that I would have remembered," DeLeon said. "We wouldn't be here right now."
DeLeon, 52, is charged with one count of conspiring to obstruct justice and four counts of making false statements to investigators.
On Thursday, DeLeon denied all of those charges. Dressed in a dark gray suit and burgundy tie, he seemed calm and professional during about four hours on the witness stand.
Jurors begin deliberations this morning.
In his closing statement, defense attorney Paul Goyette told the jury that the government's case "simply makes no sense." DeLeon, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, had nothing to gain by helping Road Dog owner Bob Holloway, he argued. DeLeon retired from the sheriff's department in 2008.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel Montoya said DeLeon "failed" as a law enforcement officer. "He had the choice to tell the truth and he did not," she said.
The charges against DeLeon stem from an FBI investigation into the Road Dog cycle shop in Denair. Authorities say Holloway, a former Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy, ran a chop shop and trafficked in stolen motorcycle parts.
Holloway is in custody awaiting trial.
DeLeon is facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Prosecutors say DeLeon knew of illegal activity related to Holloway's business, but didn't tell authorities. They say DeLeon lied when investigators later asked him about that information and lied about whether he and Holloway were friends.
The prosecution's key piece of evidence is an October 2007 phone call between Holloway and DeLeon. During the call, Holloway told DeLeon that authorities were serving a search warrant at the home of Daniel Dugranrut, a Hells Angel who worked at Road Dog.
Holloway told DeLeon he would get Dugranrut to turn himself in. But first Dugranrut needed time to hide his Hells Angels patch and a motorcycle with a stolen frame. Prosecutors say DeLeon should have passed this information on to law enforcement. That he didn't makes him guilty of conspiring to obstruct justice, say prosecutors.
DeLeon testified Thursday that when Holloway called him, he was distracted, trying to rush out of the office for a meeting about his mother's medical care. He said when Holloway told him Dugranrut wanted to hide his patch and bike, "it went in one ear and out the other."
That's why, DeLeon said, when investigators asked him about the conversation a month later, he told them Holloway hadn't said anything about Dugranrut hiding a patch and bike.
DeLeon also testified about his relationship with Holloway. Prosecutors say the two were friends, and that's why DeLeon wanted to help Holloway.
DeLeon said on the stand that he and Holloway were friends when they worked as sheriff's deputies more than 20 years ago. DeLeon said he considered Holloway an acquaintance, nothing more, during the time the Road Dog was being investigated.
Goyette noted repeatedly that investigators monitored 16,000 phone calls when they tapped Holloway's phones, but only three of those calls were between DeLeon and Holloway.
Goyette said the call Holloway made to DeLeon in October 2007 was "the unluckiest phone call DeLeon ever got."
"It's not like (DeLeon) heard about this search warrant and called up Bob Holloway," said Goyette. "He was just doing his work at his office and Bob Holloway called him. Unfortunately for Deleon, he didn't take a long lunch that day and he didn't go to the gym."
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2378.