FRESNO — The consequences of Bob Holloway's wide circle of friends — good and bad — were evident in a Fresno courtroom Wednesday.
A judge refused Holloway's request to be released from a Fresno halfway house to home detention because Holloway's extensive network includes people who have engaged in criminal activity, said U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger.
But the judge spoke before a crowd of about 20 supporters, who see Holloway as a stand-up guy, a pillar of the Denair community and anything but a threat to public safety.
Among them was Turlock resident Tim Scott, who flew down to Fresno in a two-seat plane for the hearing.
"How anybody could say he's a danger to the community, I just don't understand," Scott said afterward. "He's been to my kids' birthday parties."
Prosectors say Holloway, 62, 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. He was arrested in July 2008 after a grand jury indicted him and 11 other men on federal racketeering charges.
If convicted, he faces decades in prison and up to $2.5 million in fines. Holloway was once a Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy. His case is scheduled to go to trial in July.
Holloway was in custody at the Fresno County jail until June 2009, when he was released to Turning Point, a Fresno halfway house. He had hoped to win release from the facility so he could return to his Turlock home, where he would be under electronic surveillance.
Defense attorneys described Holloway on Wednesday as a man "who wants to make peace with the community." They described his work on landscaping projects at Turning Point, pointing out that he's allowed to handle gardening tools and is not considered dangerous.
Holloway, sunburned from his outdoors work, spoke up on his own behalf. Dressed in black jeans, cowboy boots and a suit jacket, with his long hair tied in a pony tail, Holloway told the court, "I'm a man of my word, and if I tell you I will comply with all of your wishes, I will do so."
Preparing his defense
Holloway said he lives in a remote area and wouldn't bother anybody if he is allowed to return to his Turlock home. Living at home would help him better prepare his defense, he said, because he needs access to a computer to review thousands of taped phone calls that make up the government's evidence in the case.
Stanislaus County law enforcement, the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated Holloway for several years, tracking his movements and listening to his conversations.
Holloway said Wednesday he still must review 8,000 recorded calls. At Turning Point, he has limited access to a computer, he said. He added, however, that he was "eternally grateful" to the court for allowing him to move to Turning Point.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark E. Cullers steered the conversation away from Holloway's gardening and reminded the court of the charges against Holloway. They include extortion, carjacking and soliciting violence.
Prosecutors say Holloway had violent felons and outlaw motorcycle club members threaten to rough up people who failed to pay their bills on time.
"We have a gentleman here charged with numerous counts of violent crimes," Cullers said.
In refusing Holloway's request to go home, Wanger noted that Holloway's circle of acquaintances includes people who have engaged in illegal activity. Wanger said his decision included the fact that prosecutors say one witness was threatened after being named in open court. While Holloway himself might not have been responsible, it's possible that someone who knows him was, Wanger said.
"The court cannot make the finding that there is no danger to the community," Wanger said.
He gave Holloway two victories. He'll be granted more access to the computer at Turning Point and his $2,550 monthly bill will now be paid by Pretrial Services, an arm of the federal court.
Rock Libby, Holloway's insurance agent, was one of the supporters who attended Wednesday's hearing. A self-described "conservative" in khakis and dress shoes, Libby said Holloway is a free spirit who makes friends easily. Libby said he drove to Fresno because he knew Holloway would do the same for him.
Libby described Holloway as a "harmless" man who's not prone to violence. Libby said Holloway was an asset to the Denair community who hosted fund-raisers for community groups at Road Dog Cycle. "Anything that the community needs, he was willing to chip in," Libby said.