FRESNO -- Three of the key Road Dog motorcycle shop defendants will stay in custody at least through the weekend, a federal judge ruled Friday.
Wiretap evidence that prosecutors hope will show the defendants are too dangerous to release cannot be presented until Monday, meaning Robert C. Holloway and his son, Brent F. Holloway, will remain jailed in Fresno along with Michael J. Orozco.
A grand jury indicted the men and 10 others last week on charges relating to suspected illegal operations at Road Dog Cycle in Denair going back to 1997. Two of the 13 remain at large. Four, including Stanislaus County sheriff's Capt. Raul DeLeon, were released on their own recognizance earlier this week. A fifth defendant, Reynaldo Sotelo, was released on bond.
The Holloways pleaded not guilty Friday to all charges related to suspected racketeering and extortion at the business. Robert Holloway, 61, lives in Turlock, and Brent Holloway, 36, lives in Modesto.
Defendant Alfredo F. Rincon, 37, of Manteca will be released once his family secures a $100,000 bond. His attorney, Eric V. Kersten of the federal defender's office, argued for a speedy release because Rincon uses a wheelchair and requires assistance with a catheter. Rincon is a member of the East Bay Dragons motorcycle club, authorities allege.
FBI Special Agent Nate Elias testified as to why the Holloways and Orozco should not be released on bond. According to authorities, Orozco, 51, is the president of the Manteca chapter of the Alky Haulers motorcycle club.
Elias spoke about incidents in 1993, 2002 and 2006 that the prosecution hoped would demonstrate that the Holloways are violent. He told of one police report in which a witness described Robert Holloway holding a man against a wall with one hand as he held a firearm in another.
Defense attorneys objected to much of the testimony, saying that the incidents mentioned were too old to be relevant and that Elias had no direct knowledge.
As prosecutor Laurel J. Montoya began to play a taped conversation about the 2006 incident, when a man allegedly was beaten in the shipping bay of Road Dog, defense attorneys objected, saying the tape should not be played until they had a chance to review it.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Gary S. Austin agreed and ordered that the defense attorneys receive copies of all relevant recordings, transcripts and police reports. The defendants will return to court Monday at 2 p.m.
Two other men, Daniel David Martell and John Roger Bird, who were charged with being felons in possession of a firearm in connection with the Road Dog investigation, also will return to court Monday for detention hearings.
Indicted under RICO
The government alleges that the Holloways ran a criminal enterprise out of Road Dog.
The men were indicted under a federal statute related to racketeering commonly referred to as RICO, which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, said Larry Brown, first assistant U.S. attorney in Sacramento. The statute was passed by Congress in 1970 and is most commonly used to pursue organized crime.
Brown is not working on the Road Dog prosecution, but he spoke generally Friday about how the government uses the racketeering statute.
"The goal is to decapitate and disband the targeted organization," he said. "At minimum, the intent is to target the leadership, with the goal being, if the leaders are removed, the organization will be weakened or may fold altogether. Sometimes that happens and other times it doesn't. It depends on how large the organization is and how many are brought down by the case."
Brown stressed that the statute is not used often, and that U.S. attorneys must get permission from Department of Justice headquarters in Washington to prosecute under its auspices. There's a lengthy review process before prosecutors are allowed to allege a RICO violation, Brown said.
"There are a handful of prosecutions like that throughout California," he said.
RICO allows prosecutors to ask for lengthier sentences and can hold people accountable for federal and state laws. It also allows more people to be held responsible for the enterprise's activities than would otherwise be targeted.
One prosecutorial tool that goes hand in hand with RICO violations is forfeiture, meaning the government can take property belonging to people convicted of the racketeering violations.
"It seeks to deprive the people involved with the enterprise of their ill-gotten gains, whether it's cash or things they've purchased with the cash. It could be their homes and cars or airplanes. It just depends," Brown said.
Brown said the statute had been used successfully during the past 18 months to prosecute a gang in Oakland and Fairfield called the Pitch Dark Family. The gang carried out crimes from narcotics trafficking to murder, he said.
The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has been using the RICO act to go after street gangs in Southern California, he said.
Wiretapping is a fairly common investigative technique used in racketeering investigations, Brown said. Investigators used wiretapping in the Road Dog investigation, according to court documents.
"You are looking at an organization with any number of members and, like any organization, the members will need to resort to communicating with one another, often by telephone or cell phone," he said. "Wiretapping allows investigators to put together the puzzle, the links, as to who's involved and who has what role, how orders are given and how things are carried out."
Though Brown could not speak directly about the Holloway case, he said it could easily take a year for the case to come to trial.
"If an investigation has been going on for years, the government's going to have a much better handle on the case," he said. "Rarely is it going to be in defendants' interest to push to get to trial too soon."
Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2235.