Add obstruction of justice to the seven other federal felony counts former 93rd State District Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado faces.
Prosecutors this week tacked on an additional charge for falsely claiming in a text message to a federal informant that his $5,500 bribe of Delgado was a campaign contribution, according to court records disclosed in a story by the McAllen Monitor.
Delgado, 64, of Edinburg, is expected to be arraigned on this latest charge Aug. 3 in U.S. District Court in Houston. When his trial date is set, sometime in September, he will now face obstruction, three counts of bribery, three violations of the federal Travel Act — for soliciting the bribes by phone — and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
As The Texas Monitor reported, Delgado resigned in early May and has been free since Feb. 5 on a $100,000 bail, after pleading not guilty to the other charges. He insisted to reporters at the time his resignation was no admission of guilt.
“Some people may consider this announcement as some type of admission of culpability with respect to the pending charges. They would be wrong in doing so. It is simply, the right thing to do,” Delgado said from a written statement.
Longtime attorney Jaime Tijerina, of Mission, was sworn in to replace Degado in late June.
Shortly after Delgado resigned, Edinburg attorney Noe Perez pleaded guilty to a single felony count of bribery, admitting “knowingly and willfully conspiring with Delgado to commit offenses against the United States,” and “to corruptly give, offer and agree to give things of value to Judge Delgado.”
According to the original criminal complaint, an unnamed local attorney (Perez) agreed to become an FBI informant after telling investigators he had been bribing Delgado since 2008.
The attorney gave Delgado two bribes totaling $520, beginning in November of 2016, an a single bribe of $5,500 in cash on Jan. 17 in a local restaurant, with the attorney recording the transaction with a concealed audio wire, according to the complaint.
In text messages between Delgado and Perez, the judge refers to the bribes as “campaign contributions” and requests those contributions be made by check.
This latest obstruction charge stems from a text message Delgado sent to an “Attorney A” in January referring to an envelope containing about 75 bills totalling $5,500 that Delgado had received, according to the Monitor. “Good evening, please call me. The campaign contribution needs to be made by check. I need to return that to you so you can write a check. Sorry about the confusion, I thought you knew and I did not open the envelope until today.”
By misrepresenting the bribe as a campaign contribution, “Delgado did corruptly obstruct, influence and impede an official proceeding, that is a federal grand jury proceeding.”
Delgado continues to be listed as a candidate for the 13th district Court of Appeals and has made no public comment on it since his resignation. Democratic Party officials in Hidalgo County have made no decision about Delgado’s place on the November ballot.
Delgado had served as district judge since 2001 and for 11 years had been a court-at-law judge for Hidalgo County.
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].