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Judge's decision to deny bail in Road Dog case based on concern for witnesses

Bob Holloway
Bob Holloway Modesto Bee

A federal judge's decision to keep retired sheriff's deputy Robert "Bob" Holloway III in jail this week pending trial was based largely on concerns about threats aimed at witnesses in the case, authorities said.

Holloway's attorney, Roger K. Vehrs of Fresno, said a witness named in court Sept. 12 received a threatening phone call after court. The judge didn't blame the call on Holloway, Vehrs said. "But he said he felt that there was enough confusion, and circumstances that were suspicious, that he couldn't release Bob at this time," Vehrs said.

Prosecutor Laurel J. Montoya quoted U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger as saying Holloway could be "a dangerous man."

"He also said that, at times, Bob is very generous. He does help his friends," she said. "But the generosity doesn't make up for these other events."

A grand jury indicted Holloway, 60, his son Brent Holloway, 35, and 11 others in July on charges related to suspected illegal operations at Road Dog Cycle in Denair going back to 1997.

The shop closed after the arrests. Robert Holloway has been in custody since July 15. Brent Holloway was released in early August.

Authorities say the Holloways ran a racketeering enterprise at the shop, allowing motorcycle club members to take bikes on credit without official loans. Authorities say club presidents would repossess the bikes for Robert Holloway when members missed payments.

Supporters say the Holloways have been good to their community, raising funds for local causes and being flexible when customers couldn't make payments.

The two-year investigation snared several men with law enforcement backgrounds: retired sheriff's Capt. Raul DeLeon, retired sheriff's deputy David Swanson and former corrections officer Stephen Johnson. They are charged with lying to federal authorities.

DeLeon was placed on administrative leave in December. He retired from the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department in August.

During five days of hearings in the past week aimed at determining whether Holloway should be released from jail, prosecutors argued that he has a long history of breaking rules.

Holloway, for example, has said he retired in 1985 from the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department for medical reasons after a drunken driver slammed into his patrol car.

But prosecutors linked Holloway's retirement to an internal affairs investigation that culminated with a recommendation to end his employment. The investigation started after someone broke into a sergeant's office, Montoya said. Investigators said they found Holloway's fingerprint on a file about him that had been removed from a sergeant's locked desk.

"They confronted him and their recommendation was termination," she said. "He elected to take his medical retirement at that point in time."

Vehrs said his next step will be to challenge the constitutionality of recordings collected during the investigation, but described the judge's decision Wednesday as "extremely fair."

In Holloway's defense, Vehrs brought in several witnesses to challenge evidence in the federal indictment. Prosecutors said Holloway and his associates threatened one of them, Darnell Levingston, when he owed money for a bike. Levingston testified that he had never been threatened.

"He didn't know why he was in the indictment," Vehrs said.

Prosecutors have been "overzealous" throughout the case, Vehrs added. In more than 30 years as an attorney, he said, he has "never seen this kind of pressure" to keep someone in jail.

"(Montoya) has been a pit bull in this case," he said. "She won this round. And now we're onto the next one."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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