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A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced former state District Judge Rudy Delgado to five years in prison for bribery and obstruction of justice.
U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett sentenced Delgado to five years in prison during a hearing Wednesday afternoon in McAllen.
“What you stand accused of tears at the very fabric of our society,” Bennett said. “It gives air and weight to people who look upon courts with suspicion — that it does matter who you know, that it does matter the size of your bank account, that justice can be purchased.”
Elected in 1988, when he became a court-at-law judge, Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado, 66, of Edinburg spent roughly three decades on the bench.
Delgado presided over the 93rd state district court from 2001 to 2018, when the FBI arrested him. Despite the federal bribery charges, Delgado won a seat on the 13th Court of Appeals in November 2018.
The FBI apparently started investigating Delgado in 2016, when a local attorney named Noe Perez bragged to a client about bribing a judge.
Agents questioned Perez, who confessed to paying for courtroom favors and agreed to cooperate. He recorded meetings with Delgado, who accepted cash after they discussed pending cases.
The FBI conducted a wide-ranging investigation, which included wiretaps and aerial surveillance.
Agents suspected that Delgado accepted bribes from two additional attorneys, according to a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. Prosecutors also believe that Delgado accepted improper gifts from attorneys.
Delgado, however, heard a rumor about the investigation in 2018. FBI agents scrambled to arrest him and salvage the case.
Along with bribery, prosecutors slapped Delgado with an obstruction of justice charge. He pleaded not guilty.
A jury, though, convicted Delgado in July after four days of testimony.
Bennett, the federal judge, said he’s handled more than 100 trials during the past decade.
“I can’t recall, in those 10 years, a jury that was as adamant and angry as this jury,” Bennett said, recounting how the jurors reacted when they heard the testimony.
Delgado apologized Wednesday afternoon, when he addressed the court at length, but he didn’t explicitly admit to accepting bribes.
“I was a good person. I was a good judge,” Delgado said. “I succumbed. And I will pay the price for that.”
Delgado said he met with Perez, the attorney who became a government informant, during a very difficult time.
His son, Ricco, had become addicted to drugs and died. As his son’s addiction worsened, Delgado started to drink heavily.
Delgado said he met with Perez in a “drunken stupor,” which affected his judgment.
“I apologize to the community,” Delgado said. “And the general public that put their faith in me for many years.”
Faced with the loss of his pension and possibly his home as a result of the conviction, Delgado said he contemplated suicide.
“Had I offed myself, judge, my retirements and pensions would be intact,” Delgado said, adding later: “But I’ve done enough to hurt my family. I don’t want to die. That’s up to God.”
Bennett sentenced Delgado to five years in prison on the bribery and obstruction of justice charges. He also handed down a four-year sentence on charges of conspiracy and violating the federal Travel Act.
The prison sentences will run concurrently, followed by two years of supervised release.
Delgado, who suffers from liver and heart problems, will self-report to prison.