The FBI charged State District Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado with accepting three bribes totaling more than $6,000 from an informant attorney who told investigators he had been bribing Delgado since 2008.
The judge for the 93rd state district in Hidalgo County, about 25 miles north of the Mexican border, appeared to hear the charges Monday before U.S. Magistrate J. Scott Hacker in McAllen, who set bail at $100,000 and released him, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The federal government has 30 days to indict Delgado, which will result in his automatic suspension without pay, Eric Vinson, executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, told Texas Lawyer on Tuesday.
Delgado, 64, of Edinburg, who is a candidate for a place on the 13th District Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, declined to answer questions from local reporters upon his release, telling one he would allow the judicial process to run its course.
According to the criminal complaint, opened Monday, a local lawyer began cooperating with FBI investigators more than a year ago. Agents recorded calls and private meetings between the lawyer and Delgado to discuss releasing the lawyer’s clients on bond.
Delgado, the complaint says, took two bribes from the attorney totaling $520, beginning in November 2016. On Jan. 17, with the attorney wearing a concealed recording wire, he gave Delgado $5,500 in cash in an area restaurant.
In each case of a bribe, Delgado complied with the request and set bonds for the attorney’s clients, according to records kept by Delgado’s court.
The complaint also outlines text messages between the judge and the attorney in which Delgado refers to the bribes as “campaign contributions” and he asks for them to be made by check.
FBI agents arrested Delgado last Friday on a formal felony charge of “bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.”
According to Judicial Conduct Commission records, Delgado has just one other mark on his record, a suspension from the bench in after a grand jury indicted him for driving while intoxicated in 2005. The Commission lifted the suspension in 2007 after a visiting judge dismissed the criminal charges against Delgado. The 13th District Court of Appeals upheld the visiting judge’s decision.
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected]