McALLEN — A federal judge granted a motion to move a former state judge’s trial from Houston to McAllen after nearly a year of trying to move the proceedings to the area where they allegedly happened, court records show.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett granted Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado’s motion for reconsideration, which requested the court reconsider its October 2018 decision denying Delgado’s original request for a venue change for the trial scheduled to begin July 1.
In January, Delgado’s attorney filed the reconsideration motion, but in a four-page court filing the following month, federal prosecutors opposed the motion and asked the court to deny it.
Michael W. McCrum filed the reconsideration motion after a judge denied Delgado’s initial request in August 2018.
A federal grand jury indicted Delgado February 2018 for allegedly accepting bribes from at least one local attorney in exchange for judicial favors.
The former judge faces three counts of federal program bribery, three counts of violating the federal Travel Act for using a phone to broker the alleged bribes, one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and an obstruction of justice charge, court records show.
On Aug. 10, 2018, Delgado filed to have his federal bribery trial held in McAllen instead of Houston.
But the court ruled against Delgado in October 2018 and left the trial’s venue in Houston.
The January filing was McCrum’s second attempt to change the venue, in which he argued that a newly proposed rule could affect his client’s current situation and argument.
At the time of the filing, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas was soliciting public comments on a proposed criminal rule, titled “Criminal Local Rule 18 – Place of Trial Within The District,” with submissions due Feb. 15, according to the court’s website.
McCrum asked the court in the January motion to reconsider a venue change based on the aforementioned proposed rule, which would permit an intra-district transfer if: “the judge finds the case was not filed in the proper division, or the transfer to a different division would be in the interests of justice, based on the convenience of the defendant and the witnesses, and on the prompt administration of justice.”
“Notably, the prosecution’s unilateral discretionary choice to seek indictment in a particular division is not listed as a factor in the court’s decision,” McCrum argued in the filing. “The phrase ‘prompt administration of justice’ has been typically interpreted in terms of the timeliness of trial.”
Delgado has argued the location of the trial would cause his family and potential witnesses an undue burden, as the trial could potentially last several weeks and would result in costly travel expenses.
But in their response, prosecutors underscored a few opposing points, including the defense’s failure to show a lack of errors in “fact and in law” in the court’s October 2018 decision to keep the trial in Houston, and the defense’s argument over a proposed rule regarding the venue, which was still only a proposal that has not yet been approved.
“The public comment stage of the rulemaking process is intended to allow various stakeholders to provide input on the proposed rule so that the rulemaking body can consider whether or not to adopt the rule,” the filing stated. “The process anticipates that the rule may never be adopted.”
Furthermore, prosecutors argued that even if the proposed rule change were to go into effect, it would not guarantee the court ruling in the defendant’s favor for the venue change.
“… It would simply give the court additional guidance on how to apply its discretion, as it already did in this case in denying the motion to change venue for trial purposes only,” the court record stated.
The order also indicated that although the trial will be held locally, all other proceedings will remain in Houston.