Former Hidalgo Co. District Judge Found Guilty on All Counts
UPDATE (7/11): The jury in the trial of a former Hidalgo County district judge has returned a guilty verdict.
Former Judge Rodolfo "Rudy" Delgado was found guilty on eight counts of bribery, Travel Act violations, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.
MCALLEN – A court reporter, a confidant and Rodolfo Delgado’s wife took the stand on Wednesday.
The three witnesses for the defense took less than half a day to testify before jurors in the trial for the former district court judge accused of accepting bribes.
The court reporter who worked for the 93rd District Court was asked about the transcript she retrieved for Delgado. It was related to a lawsuit involving faulty mesh.
The rumors Delgado heard involved speculation about that case in the ongoing federal investigation against him.
One of the litigants involved in the case may have purchased firewood from the judge.
Multiple objections were raised by the government when Ray Thomas, a long-time friend of Judge Delgado and local attorney, took the stand.
The prosecution objected to the hearsay nature of the information the defense wanted to address.
Thomas is one of the judge’s confidants and serves as a deacon at his church.
He testified about helping Delgado during difficult times in his life like the deaths of his two sons, Roman and Rico Delgado, who died separately in 2007 and 2017 respectively.
When Judge Delgado learned of the investigation against him, he once again sought Thomas’ advice as a friend and attorney. He advised the judge to seek legal counsel from an attorney in San Antonio.
It was during his trip to San Antonio, that Judge Rodolfo Delgado and his wife Diana were stopped shortly after crossing the checkpoint in Ben Bolt, Texas.
Diana Delgado said multiple agents arrived and arrested her husband.
A substantial portion of Diana Delgado’s testimony focused on the events before the trip to San Antonio and the intention behind the truck purchase from Noe Perez, the local attorney turned informant for the FBI.
Diana Delgado explained she received contributions for the foundation she and her husband created following the death of their youngest son, Roman.
Checks and donations would sometimes sit weeks in the home’s safe before the contributions were taken to the bank.
When the judge received what the defense argued was campaign and charitable contributions from Noe Perez in January 2018, the cash sat undeposited for days.
Diana Delgado said her husband discussed the money with her and his concerns with it.
They took the money and legal documents related to the mesh lawsuit on their San Antonio trip.
Delgado’s attorney asked Mrs. Delgado to speak about the truck they acquired from Noe Perez in 2008.
The government believed that truck was usurped by the judge without any documented payment made to Perez.
They point to that sale as the time when the illicit relationship began between the judge and Perez.
Perez testified he believed in lieu of payment he would receive judicial favor.
Diana Delgado explained the couple was looking for a truck to purchase for their son, Rico. His truck was totaled in the fatal accident involving their son, Roman, the previous year.
Mrs. Delgado said there were two separate cash retrievals from the safe that totaled to $9,000 in addition to an undisclosed amount of money contributed by Rico.
Noe Perez came by the house to collect payment, according to Mrs. Delgado, but she admitted she did not see the cash transaction.
She only recalled Rico going back inside the house and announcing, “I have a truck.”
The testimony turned emotional when Diana Delgado was asked about the time that led to Rico’s untimely demise due to substance abuse.
“It was a rough time,” she said through stifled sobs.
She described life at home after Rico, an assistant district attorney in Hidalgo County, was arrested for substance abuse in 2016.
He received treatment for addiction to inhalants but “immediately relapsed” upon his release.
Judge Delgado and his wife locked the keys to the cars and would take turns sleeping to ensure Rico would not try to leave home.
On February 25, 2017, Rico Delgado’s body was discovered in an Austin, Texas park.
The defense wanted to present this information to jurors as a way of explaining the circumstances in Rodolfo Delgado’s life around the time in which several undercover recordings were coordinated by the FBI and the informant.
“It’s not about sympathy. It’s about the evidence,” the government’s attorney admonished the jury during closing arguments Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors encouraged jurors to use their “common sense” when weighing the evidence presented before them.
Evidence is what the defense claimed the government did not have when proving the conspiracy initiated with the truck.
They reiterated the lack of proof from 2008 through 2016, excluding 2016-2018, showing the judge had “essentially extorted” the vehicle from Perez in 2008.
The defense attempted to cast doubt on whether there was any actual agreement to commit the crime; they insisted there only was Perez’ hope that the exchange of the vehicle without payment, as he claimed, would serve as a line of credit that could lead to favorable judicial consideration.
The defense also encouraged “common sense” reasoning when the jury considers the bribe cash amounts.
In a 2016 recording, the judge is bribed with $260 to rule favorably on a PR bond.
In January 2018, he’s handed a cash payment of $5,500 by the informant requesting the same kind of favor.
“It doesn’t even make sense,” exclaimed Delgado’s attorney.
The judge could have thought the envelope contained a check mixed with cash as contributions for his charitable foundation and his campaign, argued the defense.
The prosecution replied in their rebuttal saying the judge had systematically pushed Perez in previous conversations into giving more money.
The government chose to end their closing arguments showing excerpts from that January 2018 recorded meeting. It showed Delgado taking the cash-stuffed envelope.
Noe Perez’s is heard mentioning a client in need of having a PR bond granted by Delgado.
Perez is heard saying, “Just get the order out,” to which the judge is heard responding, “Yeah – sounds good.” The following day, Delgado granted the bond.
Jury began deliberating Wednesday afternoon.
Delgado is facing eight counts for bribery, Travel Act violations, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy.