Delgado trial venue hearing set for October

McALLEN — A decision on whether to grant a motion for a trial venue change to McAllen in the bribery case of a former state district judge could be reached in October, court records show.

The court on Tuesday set Oct. 19 to hear further arguments related to former state District Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado’s request to have his trial held in McAllen, and not in Houston, as is currently scheduled.

Delgado faces eight federal charges related to allegations that he accepted bribes from attorneys and others in exchange for judicial favors in his courtroom.

He was arrested in early February and indicted the following month.

The former judge’s attorney, San Antonio-based Michael W. McCrum, filed a motion for a venue change in his bribery trial, scheduled for February 2019, in early August.

The court setting comes nearly a week after McCrum replied to the government’s response to the aforementioned motion.

In the early August filing, Delgado’s attorney cited public policy concerns, the location and availability of his client’s witnesses for trial, and what McCrum says would be a lack of a support system for Delgado if the trial were to be held in Houston.

The government’s prosecutors, who are opposed to a change of location for the trial, responded in their own 27-page filing on Aug. 31, in which they cited Delgado’s high profile and the media attention his case has received as some of the reasons why holding the trial in Houston would be best, arguing that his status in McAllen would make picking a jury for his trial “impossible.”

In the Sept. 5 response, McCrum characterizes the government’s assertions in their response as “fallacies,” and addresses them one by one.

“The government’s response is not only notable for what it asserts, but what it fails to address. Its assertions do not fully convey pertinent facts, and its failure to address important factors is telling,” the filing states.

The government argued that Delgado’s high-profile would make selecting a jury almost impossible in the McAllen division.

“The government anticipated that this case would garner significant media attention in the McAllen division, and it has,” the court record states. “This coverage, coupled with the defendant’s profile in the community and status as an active candidate for judicial office, suggests that picking a jury without prior knowledge of the defendant or his charges will be challenging, if not impossible.”

But McCrum argues the high-profile status of defendants in previous trials didn’t seem to concern the government before.

“The government fails to address, however, how such an impediment did not affect the propriety of the government’s decision in filing other cases involving public figures in the situs of their public status,” the record states.

He also challenged the government’s argument that because Delgado has made frequent trips outside Hidalgo County, to visit his sons and his attorney, his travel to Houston for the trial would not be a burden.

McCrum states his travel to visit his sons did not lead to incurring hotel expenses, something a prolonged trial may result in.

“Defendant’s travel to Austin did not force defendant to incur any hotel and associated expense,” the court record states. “…The government’s point avoids the important fact that it was not necessary for all of defendant’s witnesses, friends and family to travel with him to San Antonio and Austin when he visited his sons and/or attorneys; but such would be necessary if trial was conducted in Houston. This results in a profound burden in terms of time, expense and otherwise.”

In addition, McCrum argues that the government’s contention that media coverage on Delgado’s case locally has tainted potential jurors.

“Its argument relative to media coverage is pure conjecture, and belies the fact that numerous other high-profile cases have been filed and handled in the McAllen division and numerous other “border” divisions in Texas. Moreover, the government’s actions in previous high-profile cases undercuts its position in the instant case — it chose numerous times to seek prosecution in the same division that a high-profile public figure was serving,” the response states.

For these reasons, McCrum states “defendant requests that the court transfer the situs of trial in the instant case to the McAllen Division,” the complaint states.

It is unknown how long it would take for the court to rule on the venue change motion after the Oct. 19 hearing.