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Jury Acquits Sheriff’s Captain

Posted on Saturday, August 01, 2009 at 12:00PM

A Jury of five men and seven women took less than one hour to acquit retired Captain Raul DeLeon on five counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements to a federal investigator. Mr. DeLeon’s trial was in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District, before Judge Oliver Wanger. Mr. DeLeon was represented by Paul Q. Goyette and a team of lawyers from Goyette & Associates, Inc., and was a member of the Legal Defense Fund.

The United States Attorney indicted Mr. DeLeon on one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice (18 USC § 1512©(2)(k), and four counts of false statements to a federal investigator (18 USC § 1001). All counts arose from the FBI’s ongoing investigation of former Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Bob Holloway. For a number of years, the FBI has been investigating Bob Holloway regarding his association with outlaw motorcycle gangs and, particularly, the Hell’s Angels.

Mr. Holloway was a deputy for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department for approximately 15 years. He left law enforcement on a disability retirement in 1985. Shortly thereafter, he opened a motorcycle shop in Deniar called Road Dog Cycles.

For many years, law enforcement investigators heard rumors that Mr. Holloway and Road Dog Cycles were involved with the Hell’s Angels. The FBI has been investigating Mr. Holloway since approximately 2003.

MR. DELEON’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOLLOWAYS: Mr. DeLeon worked as a law enforcement officer for 30 years. He attained the rank of captain in the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and enjoyed an exemplary and decorated career. Mr. DeLeon first met Mr. Holloway in the 1970s, when Mr. DeLeon was an explorer with the department. Mr. DeLeon and Mr. Holloway worked as beat partners off and on until Mr. Holloway’s retirement.

After Mr. DeLeon was promoted to captain, Mr. Holloway’s wife, Kathy Holloway, worked as Mr. DeLeon’s secretary at the department. Kathy Holloway worked as Mr. DeLeon’s secretary for approximately three years. While he worked with Kathy Holloway, Mr. DeLeon described his relationship with Mr. Holloway as very friendly.

However, since Holloway’s retirement in 1985, they had very limited contact. Mr. DeLeon only physically saw Mr. Holloway three times. One of those times was when their families were coincidentally on the same ship for a Mexican cruise. That cruise, in the winter of 2005, was organized by a travel agent in the Modesto area. The travel agent’s husband was a deputy and she arranged for numerous law enforcement families to go on this cruise.

MR. DELEON BECOMES A TARGET OF THE FBI: For reasons that probably have more to do with petty political rivalries than sound law enforcement tactics, the FBI targeted Mr. DeLeon as a possible leak of confidential law enforcement information to Holloway. Unbeknownst to Mr. DeLeon, the FBI had obtained a wiretap order for all of the Holloway phones.

On September 19, 2007, Mr. DeLeon was escorting a new HR director to different locations around the county. During this time, he saw Mr. Holloway driving his pickup truck. Mr. DeLeon executed a friendly vehicle stop on Mr. Holloway.

Mr. DeLeon spoke to Mr. Holloway for about five minutes and asked Mr. Holloway to say hello to his wife, Kathy. Following this vehicle stop, Holloway called his wife to tell her about his meeting with DeLeon. Since the FBI was monitoring the phone calls, they immediately recognized DeLeon’s name. The FBI now targeted the third highest ranking official in the Sheriff’s Department.

THE GRAND JURY SUBPOENA: As a means of laying a trap for Mr. DeLeon, the FBI served a grand jury subpoena on DeLeon, referencing a phony grand jury hearing. The subpoena asked DeLeon to provide records of Kathy Holloway’s employment with the department, which had ended about two years prior.

The subpoena did not contain any instructions, confidentiality notices, a proof of service, or other documentation. It was simply a single-page document.

Once he received the subpoena, Mr. DeLeon was immediately confused. He had never had to work with a grand jury subpoena and he was not the custodian of Kathy Holloway’s personnel records.

In an effort to comply with the subpoena, Mr. DeLeon naturally started asking questions. Mr. DeLeon spoke with the assistant sheriff and the sheriff, who were in on the ploy with the FBI. Neither the assistant sheriff nor the sheriff could give Mr. DeLeon any information as to how he should comply.

They both denied knowing anything about the subpoena, leaving Mr. DeLeon even more confused as to what it was about. Over the next several days, Mr. DeLeon made a number of other inquiries about how he should comply with the subpoena.

HOLLOWAY CALLS DELEON: In what will probably be the unluckiest phone call Mr. DeLeon will ever receive, Bob Holloway called him at the department on October 16, 2007. The call was put through to Mr. DeLeon and, of course, was being monitored by the FBI.

Holloway told Mr. DeLeon that an employee of his, Danny Dugranrut, had called about a search warrant that was being executed at Dugranrut’s home. Holloway called Mr. DeLeon to find out which law enforcement agency was executing the warrant and to arrange for the surrender of Mr. Dugranrut if, in fact, he was wanted.

During this conversation, Mr. DeLeon naturally asked Mr. Holloway about the grand jury subpoena he recently received involving Holloway’s wife. Mr. Holloway knew nothing about the subpoena. Mr. DeLeon told Holloway that he would look into the search warrant matter and call him back.

Mr. DeLeon then spoke briefly with the watch commander and determined that no department warrants were being executed at the time described by Holloway. A short time later, Mr. DeLeon called Holloway back and passed this information along.

Mr. DeLeon concluded the conversation by saying, “I just can’t help you, Bob.” Holloway responded that he would call other area law enforcement agencies to obtain the necessary information.

Later that afternoon, Holloway left a voice-mail message for DeLeon that he had obtained the necessary information through other law enforcement sources, including the Ceres Police Department. Mr. DeLeon never returned Holloway’s call and has not spoken to Holloway since.

THE DUGRANRUT BULLETIN: On October 18, 2007, Mr. DeLeon saw a bulletin in the briefing room with the name and picture of Mr. Dugranrut. The bulletin stated that while Mr. Dugranrut was not wanted, he was affiliated with the FBI and was under investigation. The bulletin contained the name and number of a task force member.

Immediately upon seeing the bulletin, Mr. DeLeon telephoned the task force member and reported his October 16th telephone conversations with Mr. Holloway. Mr. DeLeon had a lengthy conversation with the task force member about Mr. Holloway, Mr. Dugranrut, and even the grand jury subpoena he received regarding Kathy Holloway. Mr. DeLeon expressed his interest to help the task force in any way that he could.

MR. DELEON MEETS WITH THE FBI: On November 1, 2007, the FBI called Mr. DeLeon. The investigator complained that DeLeon had compromised or blown the grand jury hearing because he had been talking to so many people about the subpoena. Obviously, Mr. DeLeon responded that he was simply trying to comply with the subpoena, and it wasn’t a confidential document anyway. Mr. DeLeon argued that he could talk to anybody he wanted or needed to, in his efforts to comply with the subpoena.

The FBI investigators continued to communicate with Mr. DeLeon. On November 20, 2007, Mr. DeLeon met with the FBI investigators at his Sheriff’s Department office for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes.

The investigators wanted to meet with Mr. DeLeon to discuss possible leaks of information within the Sheriff’s Department. Mr. DeLeon readily agreed to meet with the investigators and expressed significant concern that if there was a leak of information within the department, he certainly wanted to help find it and stop it. Unbeknownst to DeLeon, all of his communications with the FBI investigators were secretly tape-recorded and he was the target of the investigation.

During their meeting, Mr. DeLeon and the investigators spent well over an hour discussing Holloway, Road Dog Cycles, the grand jury subpoena, Danny Dugranrut, and other various law enforcement matters. Mr. DeLeon legitimately believed he was helping the investigator in an important law enforcement investigation.

THE ARREST AND INDICTMENT: The United States Attorney sought and obtained an indictment against Mr. DeLeon on June 11, 2008. Following the indictment, the arrest of Mr. DeLeon was an example of not only the epidemic of discriminatory prosecutions against law enforcement officers, but also the extraordinary efforts prosecutorial agencies will go through to demean and humiliate them.

Mr. DeLeon was arrested at his home on July 15, 2008, at approximately 8:20 a.m. There were approximately eight FBI-supervised officers in the street when he was ordered out of his house. The FBI blocked off his street, and – short of tanks and black helicopters – treated him as if he were on America’s Most Wanted list. Mr. DeLeon was then transported, along with numerous escort vehicles, to the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center, where he was placed in a maximum-security cell.

This was a facility that he had been in charge of just a few months before. Then Mr. DeLeon, along with other arrested defendants, was transported at high speed from Modesto to Fresno. There were at least three escort vehicles with their red and blue lights on the entire trip down to Fresno. Mr. DeLeon was booked into a holding facility near the U.S. District Court in Fresno.

Of course, and by design, it was a Friday afternoon. Therefore, Mr. DeLeon had to spend the entire weekend in jail before he could be released the following Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger was apparently not as concerned about any threat Mr. DeLeon posed, and released him on his own recognizance.

MOTIONS TO DISMISS: Goyette & Associates was chosen by LDF to handle Mr. DeLeon’s defense. Goyette & Associates filed numerous pre-trial motions, including a Motion to Dismiss the entire case for outrageous government conduct. Goyette & Associates argued that the use of a phony grand jury subpoena and a sham grand jury hearing were an outrageous form of entrapment and the case should be dismissed.

Goyette & Associates argued that Mr. DeLeon had absolutely no predisposition to commit any crime, let alone the five felony counts contained in the indictment. Judge Wanger denied the motion on the grounds the indictment focused on Mr. DeLeon’s specific statement on November 20, 2007, which the government alleged to be untruthful.

Judge Wanger noted that the government did not indict Mr. DeLeon for corruption or for a leak of confidential law enforcement information, but rather, took advantage of his willingness to cooperate with the investigation and determined that certain statements he made through the course of his cooperation were lies.

Simply put, the FBI investigators’ conduct did not force Mr. DeLeon to speak truthfully or untruthfully during his cooperation with them. The case was then set for trial.

THE TRIAL AND VERDICT: The trial took place between April 28, and May 1, 2009, before Judge Wanger. Goyette & Associates purposely selected a highly educated, sophisticated jury. Virtually all members of the jury had some college education, while a few had masters and doctorate degrees. Most of the jurors were business owners, managers, and supervisors.

The jury heard all of the evidence, including key excerpts from numerous wiretap phone calls between Holloway and various parties, including Mr. DeLeon. The key witness in the entire case was Raul DeLeon, himself. Once on the witness stand, he calmly and professionally explained his entire involvement with the case. He explained two mistakes of fact he made at the meeting with the FBI investigators on November 20th.

Jurors later commented that Mr. DeLeon’s careful and calm testimony proved to be very believable to them, along with the government’s inability to provide any evidence linking Mr. DeLeon with any conspiracy to obstruct justice.

It took the jury less than one hour to acquit Mr. DeLeon on all counts. The jury carefully listened to the evidence and applied it directly to the law as described in the jury instructions. By doing so, the jury was able to take highly complicated principles of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and make sensible decisions. Following the verdict, the entire jury stayed to speak with the government’s lawyers, Paul Goyette, Mr. DeLeon, and the DeLeon family.

Mr. DeLeon was visibly relieved after the verdict was read: “I have been living a nightmare for the past 17 months, and I am just so happy that it is finally over …This ordeal has been extremely difficult on my entire family, but they all stood by me because they knew that I was innocent …I have dedicated 30 years of my life to the law enforcement profession and I believed in the justice system. This verdict just reaffirms my belief in that system.”

Mr. DeLeon was very appreciative of the excellent work and endless time and energy Goyette & Associates expended in his defense. He was also appreciative of all of the support provided by the Legal Defense Fund throughout this ordeal.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.