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A jury convicted former state District Judge Rudy Delgado on bribery and obstruction of justice charges Thursday.
The jury — six men and six women — convicted Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado, 66, of Edinburg on eight charges: conspiracy to commit bribery, three counts of bribery, three federal Travel Act violations and obstruction of justice.
“The bribery of a judge may be the worst break of the publics’ trust in government,” said Ryan K. Patrick, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas, in a statement. “Rudy Delgado used his position to enrich himself. He didn’t just tip the scales of justice, he knocked it over with a wad of cash and didn’t look back. Delgado’s actions unfairly tarnish all his former colleagues.”
Attorney Michael McCrum of San Antonio, who represents Delgado, declined to comment.
The FBI started investigating Delgado in November 2016, when agents heard an attorney named Noe Perez had talked about paying a judge for courtroom favors.
Agents had a client approach Perez and record the conversation. Armed with the recording, the FBI confronted him.
Perez denied paying the judge he talked about, but he confessed to buying firewood from Delgado at inflated prices and slipping the judge cash in six-packs of beer.
The FBI sent Perez to meet with Delgado in December 2016, August 2017, November 2017 and January 2018.
Perez asked for assistance with criminal cases and handed Delgado cash. The FBI recorded the meetings with a hidden camera.
Rumors about the investigation started circulating in January 2018.
Delgado had just accepted $5,500 from Perez during a meeting in McAllen, where they discussed a case.
Ernest Aliseda, an attorney who works for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, told his former law partner, state Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, that Delgado was under investigation and the case involved the sale of firewood.
Guerra told state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, who discussed the rumor with Delgado. That prompted Delgado to ask Guerra about the rumor on Jan. 29, 2018.
Hours later, Delgado sent Perez a text message about the $5,500.
“Good evening, please call me. The campaign contribution needs to be by check,” Delgado told Perez in the text message, according to the indictment against him. “I need to return that to you so you can write a check. Sorry about the confusion, I thought you knew and I did not open the envelope till today.”
The text message became the basis for an obstruction of justice charge against Delgado. It also prompted federal agents to arrest him on Feb. 2, 2018.
Delgado took the case to trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter M. Nothstein, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur “Rob” Jones and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Guerra prosecuted the case. McCrum and attorney Terry Wayne Shamsie of Corpus Christi represented Delgado.
After four days of testimony, the jurors took roughly nine hours to reach a verdict.
U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett allowed Delgado to remain on bond, but he increased the bond from $100,000 with a $2,500 deposit to $250,000 with a $25,000 deposit.
Delgado is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 25.
The most serious charge, obstruction of justice, is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.