A U.S. appellate court denied convicted former state District Judge Rodolfo Delgado’s claim that the government failed to provide sufficient evidence during his federal bribery trial in the summer of 2019.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, affirmed the former judge’s July 2019 conviction, court records show.
Delgado, a state judge in Hidalgo County for more than a decade, was arrested and subsequently charged with bribery and conspiracy for allegedly accepting cash bribes for favorable consideration to Noe Perez, an Edinburg-based defense attorney.
After a six-day trial, a federal jury found Delgado guilty of multiple charges, including bribery, conspiracy, and obstructions of justice charges, to name a few.
A U.S. district judge sentenced him to 60 months, and 48 months for the respective charges, to be served concurrently.
In April 2020, roughly six months into serving his federal sentence, Delgado filed a 57-page document appealing his July 2019 conviction to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In his appeal, Delgado argued that his convictions on eight counts, which include conspiracy, bribery, obstruction of justice and violation of the travel act, should be thrown out as there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty of the charges.
The government argues their witnesses, chief among them the attorney who flipped Delgado to federal agents, Perez, corroborated the allegations through recorded phone calls, video footage of meetings between the two, where Perez’s clients, and their bonds were discussed on several occasions.
In a 27-page filing Tuesday, count by count, the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court upheld the convictions — pointing to instances of meetings between the two men, and then subsequently, and on at least three different instances, characterized as “stings” in the court record, the attorney’s client would be released on a personal recognizance bond — stating “a rational juror could conclude that this was bribery.”
In one video recording, Perez, at the behest of the FBI, hands Delgado a thick envelope containing $5,500 in cash in exchange for a bond for one of Perez’s clients.
Delgado, in addition to appealing the conspiracy and bribery charges, appealed the obstruction of justice charge, which alleged that upon hearing rumors about a potential federal investigation into him, Delgado messaged Perez to return the $5,500 in cash given to him in exchange for the release of one of the attorney’s clients.
“ …The Government points to the evidence it presented showing that Delgado was informed by Juan Hinojosa that he was being investigated by the FBI for selling overpriced firewood. It argues this evidence shows that Delgado foresaw that a grand jury investigation involving him might be underway,” the document states. “A (federal agent) testified that, by that time, a grand jury investigation had already begun.”
The appeals court ruled that a juror could reasonably conclude this was an attempt by the judge to cover his tracks after learning of the potential investigation.
The appeals court stated in part, “the evidence presented by the Government was sufficient for the jury to conclude both that Delgado foresaw a grand jury proceeding and that he acted corruptly by attempting to cover his tracks with the text message.”
Delgado also argued against an element of the sentencing, which enhanced one of his punishments; this too was denied by the appeals court.
“Delgado’s conviction and sentence are AFFIRMED,” the court wrote.