Wednesday, October 28, 2020

State lawmakers may have tipped off judge Delgado in bribery case


Local lawmakers testified they may have inadvertently tipped off a state district judge accused of taking bribes during their time on the stand Monday in the government’s case against the former judge, Delgado.

That information came at the end of the second full day of testimony after the defense for former state district judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado had an opportunity to cross-examine the government’s main witness, Noe Perez.

Perez testified he would give Delgado small cash contributions for favorable considerations in his courtroom.

The Edinburg-based attorney who turned informant for the government, testified Monday for another six hours in addition to the six he was on the stand last week in Delgado’s bribery trial.

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The government has accused Delgado of accepting bribes on at least three different occasions from 2008 to as late as Jan. 2018.

Delgado’s attorney, Michael McCrum, cross-examined Perez Monday for the first half of the second full day of testimony.

Perez testified last week that Delgado never paid him for a pickup truck he had received as payment for a case he had taken on in 2008 — which he said worked like a credit towards receiving favorable treatment in Delgado’s court.

McCrum worked to establish that the government’s case relied only on recordings between Perez and Delgado that were vague at best, and pushed Perez to admit that the government kept insisting he had bribed Delgado on several occasions, despite Perez’s denials.

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The defense has attempted to show that Perez was used by the federal government to bring charges against others who had taken bribes from Perez.

In May 2018, Perez pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, according to court records, and faces a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000.

He is scheduled for sentencing in August in Houston’s federal court and may be eligible for a reduced sentence given his cooperation as a government informant from Nov. 2016 until Delgado’s arrest in February 2018.

Last week Perez testified that on occasion he would visit Delgado’s home under the guise of buying firewood from the judge. During his visits, Perez would give the judge money hidden inside a beer box for what he said was more like a contribution for future favorable consideration in his court.

McCrum attempted to establish during cross examination that Perez didn’t have a direct quid pro quo with Delgado  — but instead that Perez was instructed to bribe Delgado with cash on four occasions after Perez agreed to work for the government in November 2016.

On Wednesday, during the first day of testimony, prosecutors presented as evidence several audio and video recordings of conversations between Perez and Delgado in December 2016, August 2017, November 2017, and January 2018, just weeks before federal agents arrested Delgado.

Also taking the stand on Monday were two notable figures, state Rep. Roberto D. “Bobby”  Guerra, D-Mission, and state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who the government called to testify about their interactions with Delgado a week prior to his arrest in early February 2018.

Guerra testified he was in Delgado’s courtroom Jan. 29, 2018 for a court hearing in which he was the attorney. After the hearing, Delgado called Guerra into his chambers and asked about a conversation Guerra had reportedly had with Hinojosa, in which Guerra mentioned rumors that Delgado was possibly being investigated by the feds.

Guerra said he was shocked that Delgado had asked him about it while alone in his chambers and said he was upset that Hinojosa had conveyed to Delgado details about their private conversation.

Guerra said this conversation with Hinojosa took place mere days before FBI agents raided Delgado’s home and court office.

The Jan. 29 date, which is when Delgado asked Guerra about the alleged investigation against him, is also crucial because the government believes that later that day Delgado tried to cover his tracks. He sent Perez a message in which he stated that the $5,500 he had received on Jan. 17, 2018 was not in check form and would have to be that way for the purposes of a campaign contribution.

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Federal prosecutors argue that after Delgado learned of the potential investigation against him on Jan. 25, 2018, and then after speaking with Guerra on Jan. 29, 2018, he sent the message to Perez in hopes of justifying the envelope Perez had given him with $5,500 in cash.

Hinojosa testified he and Delgado went over to Delgado’s friend’s home, a longtime local attorney who specializes in personal injury cases named Carlos Guerra.

During that social meeting, Hinojosa testified he told Delgado what Guerra had conveyed to him about the potential investigation — saying that Delgado’s demeanor changed, but that he denied the information as mere “politics.”

On Feb. 2, 2018, FBI agents raided Delgado’s court chambers and his home in Edinburg, and arrested him.

The former state district judge faces eight charges, one count of conspiracy, three counts each of federal program bribery, travel act violations, and one count of obstruction of justice, court records show.

If convicted, the former judge could receive up to 10 years in federal prison.

Day three of testimony begins Tuesday morning with the government still presenting their case in chief against Delgado. Government prosecutors are expected to rest their case by the end of Wednesday.


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