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Before he sentenced Noe Perez, the Rio Grande Valley attorney who confessed to bribing a local judge with cash and beer, U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett paused.
Perez had just spent part of Wednesday morning talking about what he called “Valley law,” a system of barely concealed corruption that permeated the Hidalgo County Courthouse. Attorneys pay judges, currying favor with campaign donations, golf tournaments and skeet shoots. Perez said he bribed former state District Judge Rudy Delgado because he knew how the system worked.
“This courtroom, I noticed the last time I was here, affords a beautiful view. And as the court looks out, I’m led to believe that what I’m looking at is not a beautiful view but some corrupt land that is unredeemable,” Bennett said. “And the court refuses to accept that.”
Delgado denied the allegations and took the case against him to trial in July.
After four days of testimony, which revealed that Delgado accepted cash during conversations about pending court cases, a jury of Valley residents found him guilty.
“They reject ‘Valley law.’ They reject the ‘Valley’ concept. They reject the games they play here. They said ‘No more,’” Bennett said. “And the court agrees with them.”
When he addressed the court, Noe Perez Jr., 59, of McAllen apologized.
He cooperated with the FBI, which asked him to record conversations with Delgado. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, waiving a federal indictment. He cooperated with prosecutors, who asked him to testify at trial. And he became a pariah in Hidalgo County, where nobody at the courthouse will speak with him.
“I know it’s wrong,” Perez said. “That’s why I admitted to it.”
Perez asked for probation. If the judge wouldn’t consider probation, he requested leniency.
“The ‘Valley’ concept here is something that should be taken into consideration,” Perez said.
Federal sentencing guidelines suggested that Perez should serve 30 to 37 months in prison. Prosecutors, however, recommended 20 months based on Perez’s cooperation with the government.
“He came in. He testified,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur “Rob” Jones. “That’s never easy for anyone.”
Bennett settled on two years in prison followed by two years of supervised release.
“If you want it to stop,” Bennett said about the concept of “Valley” law, “There has to be consequences for engaging in it.”