FRESNO — The new top prosecutor on the Road Dog federal racketeering case says he has no plans to change course on the case.
"It's full bore ahead," newly appointed U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said Wednesday in an interview with The Fresno Bee.
U.S. attorneys are presidential appointees. Wagner is President Barack Obama's pick to head California's eastern federal judicial district, which spans 34 counties throughout the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada.
Some had speculated that a new U.S. attorney could make the Road Dog case a lower priority. Wagner rejected that idea Wednesday.
Road Dog cycle shop owner Robert C. Holloway III, 62, of Turlock was arrested with 11 other men in July 2008. He's charged with using violence to collect debts, trafficking in stolen motorcycle parts and operating a chop shop at his business in Denair. Holloway once was a Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy.
At a Wednesday hearing, Holloway's defense attorneys lost a bid to get wiretap evidence in the case thrown out. U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger ruled against a motion to suppress the evidence.
Holloway's defense attorney said he wasn't surprised that Wanger denied the motion, because it was Wanger who approved the wiretap in 2007.
"When (Wanger) authorized the electronic interception, he obviously concluded that the allegations in the application were valid and accurate," Bill Osterhoudt said Thursday. "It's an uphill fight to convince a judge that he was mistaken."
Wiretap battle not over yet
Investigators monitored calls on Holloway's cell, home and business phones.
Wiretaps are considered an extraordinary step because they intrude on a citizen's privacy. To use one, investigators must convince a judge that traditional surveillance methods aren't working. They also must show that there's probable cause to believe that the wiretap target has committed, is committing or will commit certain crimes.
Defense attorneys argued in their motion to suppress the wiretap evidence that investigators failed to meet those standards.
Defense attorneys aren't done with their attempts to get the wiretap evidence thrown out. In February, they'll file another motion that argues that investigators included "misstatements or omissions" in the wiretap application, Osterhoudt said.
Trial set to start in July
Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are expected to testify in January. The Road Dog trial is scheduled to start in July.
Wagner, the new U.S. attorney, promised Wednesday to add two new prosecutors to the eastern district's Fresno office. One will focus exclusively on mortgage fraud, which Wagner called "an epidemic." The other will work on white-collar crimes.