McALLEN — In a criminal complaint unsealed Monday, the federal government alleges that state District Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado accepted bribes for at least 10 years on cases in his court in exchange for favorable “judicial consideration.”
The 64-year-old judge who presides over the 93rd state District Court, and who is known for subjecting those in his courtroom to oftentimes long-winded, boisterous manners of expression, appeared worn from three days in federal custody and somewhat soft-spoken moments after walking out the front doors of the federal courthouse after posting bond.
Delgado, wearing a suit-jacket, tie and slacks and accompanied by attorney Adolfo “Al” Alvarez, declined to answer subsequent questions regarding the allegations that he accepted bribes from at least one local attorney, who told federal agents he had bribed the judge since at least 2008.
“In America we have the presumption of innocence and I intend to let the judicial process take its course,” Delgado said as he walked away from members of the media.
Asked if he would be back on the bench of the 93rd state District Court, Delgado said he did not know, saying there are “authorities” who may have a say in the matter. Delgado is running for 13th Court of Appeals and when asked by media members on the status of his campaign, he implied he wasn’t certain.
The authorities he is referring to are those who are on the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, a state agency tasked with investigating allegations of judicial misconduct, judicial disability and for disciplining judges, according to its website.
About five hours earlier the judge, standing before U.S. Magistrate J. Scott Hacker, made his initial appearance in federal court.
His hands shackled and wearing only a white, long-sleeved mesh shirt and black slacks, Delgado — accompanied by his second attorney, Fernando Mancias — quietly answered Hacker’s prompts, stating that he understood what was being alleged against him.
In support of Delgado and inside the federal courtroom was Delgado’s wife, Diana Delgado. Other family members as well as friends, including County Judge Ramon Garcia, were also present.
Hacker, after hearing the government’s recommended conditions for release, agreed to grant Delgado a $100,000 bond, with a $2,500 cash deposit and ordered him to relinquish his passport, avoid excess alcohol consumption, and prohibited communication with any potential co-defendants.
FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee, when asked if additional arrests could be made in Delgado’s case, declined to provide specific details but said the investigation remains “ongoing.”
Federal agents arrested Delgado on an outstanding warrant Friday afternoon while the judge was traveling outside the Rio Grande Valley.
According to the complaint filed against Delgado, FBI agents began investigating him in connection with allegations of bribery in November 2016.
Delgado faces one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, which could land him in federal prison for 10 years, the complaint states.
Using a confidential human source to establish its case against Delgado, the FBI spoke with a local attorney who has known Delgado for nearly 20 years and was referred to in the complaint as “CHS.”
“…CHS is a licensed Texas attorney with criminal cases that have appeared in Delgado’s court docket over the years,” the complaint states. “CHS has known Delgado since 1999, and had advised FBI that he/she has paid Delgado multiple times dating back several years in exchange for future favorable judicial consideration on cases he/she had pending before Delgado.”
The complaint details how CHS told FBI agents that the pair would set up the meeting by telephone, and that the bribe payment would take place in person — often utilizing “coded” language to communicate regarding the bribe.
CHS also told federal agents about two recent instances in the last two years in which a bribe was given, and where Delgado placed CHS’ clients on bond after paying the bribe.
“For over a year, CHS has worked with the FBI as a confidential human source. In that capacity CHS participated in numerous consensually recorded phone calls and in-person meetings with Delgado,” the complaint states.
The complaint also alleges that Delgado accepted, at least on two occasions, “prerecorded official government funds,” in the amount of $520 in exchange for favorable judicial consideration on cases in his court.
“CHS made telephone calls and sent text messages to Delgado in order to arrange the meetings at which these bribes occurred,” the complaint states. “In each instance, CHS provided Delgado with a bribe in exchange for an agreement by Delgado to place his/her client on bond — on both occasions Delgado accepted the bribe and thereafter placed CHS’ client on bond.”
In the most recent communication between the two, which was Tuesday, Jan. 29, the complaint alleges that Delgado accepted a white envelope delivered to him at a restaurant containing $5,500 in cash. The complaint further alleges that Delgado texted CHS asking for him to take back the cash, and give him a check as a “campaign contribution.”
“The campaign contribution needs to be by check,” the complaint reads. “I need to return that to you so you can write me a check. Sorry about confusion, I though(t) you knew and I did not open envelope till today.”
FBI agents state in the complaint that they believe Delgado is attempting to cover up the bribe in the text message sent to CHS.
“…The aforementioned envelope was too large to be mistaken as a check,” the complaint states. “Finally, I further believe that Delgado may have learned of this investigation, or now suspects that CHS is cooperating with law enforcement, and this text message is an attempt by Delgado to conceal his bribery activities.”
This report was updated to reflect Delgado was charged based on a criminal complaint.