McALLEN — The man who helped the government convict a state district judge on bribery charges was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison for his role in the scheme that led to the investigation.
U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett sentenced Noe Perez to a 24-month prison term for bribing former state District Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado, which also led to Delgado’s arrest and conviction after a federal trial in July.
But just before handing down Perez’s punishment, Bennett paused and stared out the courtroom’s windows, providing a bird’s-eye view of McAllen and the surrounding cities from the 10th floor of the Bentsen Federal Courthouse.
“This courtroom affords me a beautiful view of the Valley,” the judge said as he looked out the courtroom’s large windows. “And as the court looks out, I’m led to believe that it’s some corrupt land that is irredeemable — the court refuses to believe that.”
Bennett underscored that 12 jurors, local residents who were asked to give a verdict on what Perez described as “Valley law” — something he was told in law school he would have to learn if he were to succeed as an attorney in the Rio Grande Valley.
“They reject Valley law, they reject Valley concept,” Bennett said.
Bennett said he took no pleasure in sentencing Perez, but that he would gladly do it every day if it meant uprooting corruption among officers of the court. This factored into the sentence Bennett handed down Wednesday, as opposed to the 20 months government prosecutors recommended.
Government prosecutors outlined Perez’s early plea deal in May 2018, stating that once presented with his wrongdoings, he was the only one of the numerous Valley attorneys who had the courage to admit guilt and testify in open court against Delgado.
Perez, who was represented at the hearing by attorney Jesus “Jesse” Contreras, a former judge himself, asked for leniency in his sentence, after Bennett advised him that probation was a “non-starter” based on his actions.
Clearly remorseful during his statement to the court, Perez described his time in law school and how a professor once warned him that — aside from learning Texas and U.S. law — he should also learn “Valley law.”
Perez elaborated that if he had not participated in how “Valley law” works, he would not have been successful in obtaining clients, stating that it’s “just how things work” in the Valley.
He went on to describe golf tournaments, skeet shooting events and other fundraisers where, according to Perez, giving money to a judge for future favorable consideration is expected.
Perez implored the court to recognize what he called “Valley law.”
“I tried to get out, I don’t want to pay anymore,” Perez said. “You either do it, or you don’t.”
Perez was the government’s star witness in the Delgado trial, during which he testified to bribing the former judge in exchange for judicial favors.
Perez was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery last May, three months after Delgado’s arrest on several bribery and fraud charges related to an investigation into the judge.
As part of a plea agreement, Perez pleaded guilty on May 11 to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, according to court records.
During his time on the stand in the trial, Perez testified about his encounters with the judge, describing how he would visit the judge’s Edinburg home and give the judge money for firewood. In exchange, he hoped the judge would act favorably to him and his clients when Perez was in his court.
Perez testified these visits were convenient for him, where he could actually buy wood which helped him “disguise” the reason for being at the judge’s residence.
Perez, who has been practicing law in the state since the early 2000s, also characterized himself as a “hoodrat” attorney, a “hustler,” who considered the profession a job that needed to be hustled in order to be successful.
During testimony, it was revealed that Perez was accused by a client of attempting to “hustle” them for more money, which brought the attention squarely on Perez after the client went to the feds to complain.
It was during this encounter that Perez, facing the possibility of being under investigation himself, told agents of Delgado and the bribes he had made to him.
Perez, who testified as a way to potentially be eligible for a reduced sentence given his cooperation as a government informant from June 2016 until Delgado’s arrest in February 2018, and during the trial, was facing up to five years in prison.
The attorney will also be required to serve two years of supervised release upon completion of the two-year prison term.
Perez, who violated the conditions of his bond when he allegedly assaulted his wife during a domestic dispute earlier this summer, will be allowed to self-surrender at a later date provided by court services.