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Panel reverses two Road Dog convictions

POSTED August 20, 2013 9:33 p.m.

The convictions of two men rounded up during the Denair Road Dog Cycle investigation and prosecution have been overturned by a federal appeals court.

Gary Ermoian, a private investigator, and Stephen John Johnson, a retired corrections officer, were both convicted on charges of obstructing justice during the case against Robert Holloway and his Road Dog Cycle shop in Denair.

Last week a panel of federal judges overturned the convictions, stating an investigation by the FBI is not “an official proceeding” which is a needed requirement for proving an obstruction charge.

“Looking more broadly to [Section 1512] where the term ‘official proceeding’ is repeatedly used, it becomes even more apparent that a criminal investigation is not incorporated in the definition,” Judge Diarmuid Scannlain wrote in the ruling. “Section 1512 refers to ‘prevent[ing] the attendance or testimony of any person in an official proceeding’; ‘prevent[ing] the production of a record, document, or other object, in an official proceeding’; and ‘be[ing] absent from an official proceeding to which that person has been summoned by legal process.’ The use of the terms ‘attendance’, ‘testimony’, ‘production’, and ‘summon’ when describing an official proceeding strongly implies that some formal hearing before a tribunal is contemplated.

“Thus, in light of the plain meaning of the term ‘proceeding,’ its use in the grammatical context of the ‘official proceeding’ definition, and the broader statutory context, we conclude that a criminal investigation is not an ‘official proceeding’ under the obstruction of justice statute,” Scannlain summarized in the ruling.

During the course of the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force investigation into Holloway and his motorcycle shop, agents began to suspect information was being leaked by law enforcement . To ferret out the leaks, the task force released a bulletin with information marked as confidential and for law enforcement only. In reality the information did not detail anything that would jeopardize the investigation.

After circulating the bulletin, the task force monitored wiretaps it had placed on Holloway’s phones, hoping to catch the law enforcement officers leaking information.

Ermoian, a private investigator who was friends with Holloway, learned of the bulletin through a contact at the Stanislaus County courthouse and phoned Holloway to warn him about the investigation and that a search warrant could be forthcoming.

Johnson also learned of the bulletin and issued similar warnings to Holloway.

The case against the two men argued that because of their tips, Holloway was able to hide evidence that could be used against him.

Holloway eventually pled guilty to racketeering and extortion charges and was sentenced to four years in prison in September 2010.

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