Venue change sought in judge’s bribery case

Accusing federal prosecutors of attempting to gain a “tactical advantage,” attorneys for a state district judge facing bribery charges filed a motion for a venue change, according to court records.

District Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado’s attorney, Adolfo “Al” Alvarez, filed the motion Wednesday seeking a venue change in federal court, requesting the case be moved from Houston to McAllen.

“Defendant argues that the government intentionally filed the criminal complaint in Houston in an attempt to gain a tactical advantage over defendant’s rights to defend himself,” the court record states.

Alvarez makes the argument for a venue change based on the criminal complaint filed against Delgado, which alleges he took bribes from attorneys in exchange for favorable judicial consideration in his courtroom — all allegedly taking place in Hidalgo County.

“Defendant was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint filed by the government before a U.S. magistrate in the Houston division of the Southern District of Texas,” the filing states. “Yet all the acts alleged in the complaint were committed in the McAllen division of the Southern District of Texas. All the parties referenced in the affidavit used to justify finding probable cause to issue the arrest warrant reside within the McAllen division of the Southern District of Texas.”

Alvarez also requested the court set a hearing to argue the merits of the venue change motion after prosecutors made Alvarez aware of their opposition to the request, court records show.

“Finally, defendant requests a hearing be held on this motion so that a record of testimony and arguments presented may be created for appellate purposes if needed,” the venue change request states.

Delgado remains free on a $100,000 bond granted Monday, Feb. 5, when he stood before U.S. Magistrate J. Scott Hacker for his initial appearance on the allegations of bribery contained in a criminal complaint, which was unsealed that day.

Upon his release, Delgado, who has presided over the 93rd state District Court in Hidalgo County for more than a decade, told media gathered outside the federal courthouse in McAllen that he would not return to the bench and was unsure about the status of his campaign for the 13th Court of Appeals.

According to the complaint filed against Delgado, FBI agents began investigating the judge in connection with allegations of bribery in November 2016.

The complaint details how they used a confidential human source to obtain information on Delgado.

The source 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, according to the complaint.

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,” the complaint states. “In that capacity CHS participated in numerous consensually recorded phone calls and in-person meetings with Delgado.”

Delgado faces one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, which could land him in federal prison for 10 years, the complaint states.

A date for a hearing on the venue change motion was not available as of this posting.