Ex-judge convicted of bribery resigns from appellate court

State District Judge Rodolfo "Rudy" Delgado, center, walks out of federal court behind his attorney Adolfo "Al" Alvarez, right, after posting bond for charges of bribery Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in McAllen. (Nathan Lambrecht | The Monitor)

On the heels of his conviction on bribery and obstruction charges, Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado on Friday evening submitted a letter of resignation as a justice on the 13th Court of Appeals.

According to the appellate court clerk, Delgado resigned eight days after a jury found him guilty of federal bribery and obstruction charges.

The conviction, which came after a four-day trial related to his Feb. 2, 2018 arrest by federal agents, is part of an investigation into allegations that the former judge had taken cash bribes in exchange for favorable considerations inside his courtroom.

Though under indictment, Delgado, a Democrat, continued his bid for appellate justice and secured the position in November 2018, when voters elected him to the 13th Court of Appeals, a district encompassing Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley.

Delgado was sworn in as the Place 4 justice on the appellate court in January, only to be suspended without pay by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct hours later based on the commission’s review of “facts and circumstances relating to the indictment.”

Before his resignation Friday, Delgado was prohibited from executing appellate justice duties while he was on suspension.

In April 2018, Delgado resigned from presiding over the 93rd state District Court during the middle of his fourth term, following a separate suspension from the commission related to the federal indictment. He indicated the departure was “in the public’s best interest,” not an admission of guilt to federal charges.

During the trial, government prosecutors played for jurors audio and video recordings of Delgado, and the government’s main witness, Noe Perez, an Edinburg-based attorney turned informant, who agreed to record the meetings between he and the former judge.

Delgado’s defense argued the then-judge, in one instance, was handed an envelope containing $5,500 in cash, thinking it was a set of checks for his 13th Court of Appeals campaign, and another donation for a foundation he had created in memory of his son, Roman Delgado.

But the government presented evidence and argued the judge knew this money was not meant as a campaign contribution; instead, it was payment for consideration of one of Perez’s clients in Delgado’s court-room.

Currently, the 13th Court of Appeals is headed by Chief Justice Dori Contreras and justices Nora Longoria, Gina Benavidez, Leticia Hinojosa and Greg T. Perkes. The Texas Constitution allows the governor to appoint an appellate justice in the event of a vacancy.

Prior to his arrest and subsequent conviction, Delgado presided over the 93rd state District Court for more than 16 years after being elected to the bench in 2001.

But during his time on the bench, Delgado faced both personal and professional problems.

In 2002, he nearly lost his job following a DWI arrest in Edinburg. In 2005, the charges were dropped, but Delgado was re-indicted on evading arrest and misuse of information charges later that year. This led to a suspension from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

He’s also had his share of tragedies during his tenure.

In February 2017, Delgado’s son, former Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney Ricco Diaman Delgado, was found dead in an Austin creek following a stint in a drug rehabilitation center. Before his death, the judge’s son had several run-ins with law enforcement as well.

A decade earlier, another one of Delgado’s sons, Roman David Delgado, died in a car crash in McAllen at the age of 16.

In all, Delgado, 66, could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Sept. 25.