Road Dog prosecutors: Issue was settled in July

September 20, 2009 

DN Bob Holloway

Bob Holloway Debbie Noda / The Modesto Bee.

DEBBIE NODA 103002 — Modesto Bee

FRESNO — Federal prosecutors are trying to stop Road Dog Cycle owner Robert C. Holloway's attorneys from lining up a slew of law enforcement witnesses to testify about the racketeering investigation of Holloway.

U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger is scheduled to hear arguments Monday on whether the witnesses, including undercover agents, an FBI agent and a federal prosecutor, can take the stand.

In court filings, defense attorneys say the witnesses will raise "questions that go the heart of the case, the integrity of the prosecution." For example, defense attorneys say a federal agent destroyed audiotape evidence in the Holloway case in April.

Prosecutors have filed a motion to stop the witnesses from testifying. They say the testimony is irrelevant and won't shed new light on the case.

Holloway, 61, was arrested in July 2008 with 11 other men. Authorities say Holloway and his son Brent ran a criminal enterprise out of their Denair motorcycle shop. They're charged with racketeering, running a chop shop, trafficking in stolen motorcycle parts and using violence to collect debts. Three defendants in the case have pleaded guilty. Holloway is in a Fresno halfway house awaiting trial.

In July, defense attorneys presented evidence they say shows that local law enforcement was driven by a vendetta against Holloway. An agent with the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the court that local investigators were obsessed with putting Holloway, a former Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy, behind bars. The ATF agent, who once supervised the Holloway investigation, said Stanislaus County district attorney investigators were bitter about Holloway's 2001 acquittal on a murder charge. Holloway stood trial after he confronted a career criminal in July 1997 who tried to rob his Denair shop, accidentally killing the man during a scuffle.

The ATF agent, Vince Cefalu, said investigators were so determined to get Holloway that they lied when they asked a judge for permission to tap Holloway's phones.

Wiretaps are considered an extraordinary step because they intrude on an individual's privacy. To use one, investigators must convince a judge that traditional surveillance isn't working.

Different picture painted

In July, prosecutors presented several witnesses who countered Cefalu's claims. They painted Cefalu as a disgruntled whistle-blower who was difficult to work with.

Prosecutors pointed out that Cefalu left the Road Dog case in early 2006, almost two years before the FBI applied for a wiretap. Since then, Cefalu has filed several complaints against the ATF, alleging discrimination and a hostile work environment.

Now defense attorneys want another round of testimony.

They want the court to hear from FBI agent Nate Elias, the investigator who asked Wanger for permission to tap Holloway's phones. They also want ATF undercover agent Jay Dobyns to testify. Dobyns infiltrated the Hells Angels and wrote a book about his experience.

Prosecutors say the testimony shouldn't be allowed. In court filings, they argue that the key issue before the court is Cefalu's claim that investigators lied on their wiretap application. Prosecutors say that question was resolved in July. That's when, under questioning from prosecutors, Cefalu told the court he never saw the wiretap application.

"How can you say someone's lying about something when you haven't seen it?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Cullers said.

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at lalbrecht@modbee.com or 578-2378.

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