Separate trials set in Road Dog case

Judge's decision called a win for three defendants

June 16, 2010 

As lawyers in the Road Dog Cycle case prepare to head back to court Monday, prosecutors find themselves with a tougher job ahead.

U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger ruled this week that defendants Steven J. Johnson, David Swanson and Gary Ermoian will be tried separately. They had been charged along with Bob Holloway, 62, who prosecutors say ran a criminal enterprise out of his Road Dog Cycle shop in Denair. They say he used violence to collect debts and operated a chop shop.

Holloway was arrested in July 2008 after a grand jury indicted him and 11 other men on federal racketeering charges.

Attorney Robert Forkner, who represents Swanson and another defendant, Anthony Fantacone, called the decision a win for the defense.

"Mr. Swanson was only charged with one count of obstruction of justice and not the RICO (racketeering) allegations," he said. "Prosecutors said it will take them a month to go through all the RICO violations. Mr. Swanson has nothing to do with all of that."

Prosecutors say Swanson, a former Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy then serving as a court bailiff, gave sensitive law enforcement information to Holloway, also a former deputy. They say Swanson told private investigator Ermoian that authorities planned to search Road Dog Cycle. Johnson is a retired corrections officer who prosecutors say aided Holloway.

"This is a very important win for Mr. Swanson," Forkner said.

Attorneys for other defendants and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark E. Cullers did not return phone calls for comment.

Many of the lawyers are headed back to federal court in Fresno on Monday afternoon for a hearing on a motion to suppress information gathered in a wiretap of Holloway's phones.

Holloway's attorney, William Osterhoudt, said in a court filing that the affidavit of FBI agent Nathan Alliance that sought approval for the wiretap contained "material misstatements and omissions of crucial importance."

Osterhoudt said that deputies and investigators for the district attorney's office are biased against Holloway for a variety of reasons, "including his status as a former law enforcement officer once acquitted of homicide and his subsequent ties to a motorcycle community which many in law enforcement find abhorrent."

A jury acquitted Holloway in the 1997 shooting of a man during a scuffle over money allegedly stolen from the cycle shop.

The court filing includes a statement from retired Assistant Sheriff Myron Larson, who wrote in response to a claim in the affidavit that he was a "longtime acquaintance of Bob Holloway" and handled a 2004 investigation involving Holloway's involvement in an alleged carajcking. The affidavit says that "Larson closed the case without arresting anyone or submitting the case to the (Stanislaus County district attorney's office) for filing of any charges."

In his statement, filed June 8, Larson said that he was not personally involved in the investigation of the carjacking, and that his only involvement was making sure "the complaint was handled thoroughly and properly, and by the proper law enforcement personnel."

Larson said deputies found the alleged victim to be unreliable and that the complaint was unfounded.

Larson said he met with FBI agent Nate Elias in 2007 or 2008 and discussed possible leaks in the sheriff's office regarding the Road Dog investigation. At that meeting, Larson said, he told investigators that though he knew Holloway — and Holloway's wife, Kathy, who was Larson's secretary for several years — he did not socialize with him. He said he also agreed to help in the Road Dog investigation, wearing a wire if necessary.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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