McALLEN — Jurors now have all the evidence in the trial of former state district judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado and have begun deliberations.
Both sides closed their respective cases after a brief day of testimony from defense counsel, who called up as its witnesses Delgado’s former court reporter, Jacqueline Inks, Ray Thomas, an attorney and friend, and Delgado’s wife, Diana Reyna Delgado.
Inks testified about handing over transcripts to Delgado that involved a civil litigation case known as the “mesh” case, in late January 2018, shortly before the former judge’s arrest.
A close confidant, Thomas testified that Delgado approached him after learning about a possible investigation into him.
Thomas, who was running for chief justice of the 13th Court of Appeals at the time, testified that Delgado was seeking legal advice, and subsequently was going to meet with an attorney in San Antonio.
But before Delgado could make it to San Antonio, FBI agents on the morning of Feb. 2, 2018, pulled him over in Ben Bolt and arrested him as he was on his way to see the aforementioned attorney.
Inside the vehicle, FBI agents recovered Delgado’s messenger bag and its contents, later revealed to be the $5,500 cash Perez had handed to him on Jan. 17, 2018.
During closing arguments, prosecutors reiterated to the jury that Delgado had accepted bribes from the government’s main witness, Edinburg defense attorney Noe Perez.
Government prosecutors told jurors the case, although not easy, was straightforward.
“It’s about a judge taking bribes while he was on the bench,” Arthur Jones, one of the prosecutors for the government said.
Jones said when Delgado found out he was under investigation, he attempted to cover his tracks. Jones also characterized Perez as someone who was money-oriented and cheap, and said Delgado, as it turned out, was just as money-oriented.
The defense, represented by Michael McCrum and Terry Shamsie, underscored its belief the government failed to prove a direct “quid pro quo” between Delgado and Perez.
McCrum told jurors Perez — who originally was being investigated by FBI agents for potentially bribing another judge, which was found to be untrue — was pushed by the feds to flip on Delgado.
To the conspiracy charge, McCrum argued if “was there ever really an agreement” between the two men.
He asked jurors to see the charges through the “prism” of Delgado’s perspective, and in doing so they would find the former judge did not commit these acts “corruptly.”
Similarly, McCrum argued the text message to Perez on Jan. 29, 2018, when he tells Perez that he needs to take the $5,500 he gave him and exchange it for a check to be a legal campaign contribution, was done innocently and not “corruptly,” which he said requires proof.
He further argued that despite the government’s reliance on Perez holding ex-parte meetings with the judge, which are disallowed, it is not an allegation in the indictment and asked jurors to separate it from the conspiracy, bribery and obstruction charges.
In its rebuttal, the government agreed ex-parte meetings held between the two are not part of the indictment, but asked jurors to use common sense, stating that the meetings were secret because Delgado did not want anyone to know they had happened.
On Tuesday, FBI Special Agent David Roncska, who led the investigation into Delgado, testified about his time working the case that led to the ex-judge’s arrest.
Roncska testified that after Delgado learned of a potential investigation around Jan. 25, 2018, during a social gathering with state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and another friend, Carlos Guerra, he opted to move up the arrest.
He also discussed the four meetings between Perez and Delgado — in December 2016, August 2017, November 2017 and Jan. 17, 2018.
Roncska also testified that Perez paid Delgado on every occasion but the August 2017 meeting, but had given Delgado $250 in December 2016, a month after Perez agreed to work as an informant for the government.
The defense continued to defend the last payment of $5,500 from Perez to Delgado on Jan. 17, 2018, arguing that the money was part campaign contribution, and part foundation donation.
The government has argued that the money was a bribe to Delgado, and that less than two weeks later he attempted to cover up that bribe by asking Perez to replace the cash with a check.
Prosecutors have argued from the beginning that this is when Delgado became aware of the investigation and was trying to “cover his tracks.”
Jurors deliberated for about two hours Wednesday afternoon before being excused for the day by U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett.
Deliberations will continue Thursday as jurors weigh the eight charges Delgado was indicted on, which include: one count of conspiracy, three counts each of federal program bribery, travel act violations, and one count of obstruction of justice.
If convicted, the former judge could receive up to 10 years in federal prison.