AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – A South Texas judge arrested and charged with accepting attorney bribes was suspended without pay while his criminal case plays out in federal court.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Thursday temporarily removed Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado of the 93rd District Court in Hidalgo County. The move came one day after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of bribery and violating the Travel Act.
Prosecutors say Delgado, 64, accepted about $6,000 in cash bribes from at least one attorney in exchange for favorable rulings on three separate occasions between November 2016 and January 2018.
The longtime judge, a Democrat, was arrested last month while traveling to a campaign event outside of the county. He remains a candidate for an open seat on Texas’ 13th Court of Appeals, running unopposed in the March 6 primary election. Delgado would face Republican Jaime Tijerina if he is still on the ballot in November.
Hours after his Feb. 2 arrest, FBI agents conducted raids on Delgado’s Hidalgo County court offices and his Edinburg home. The judge made his initial appearance the following Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker, who allowed his release after posting a $100,000 bond.
“Judge Delgado is innocent and we will be fighting the charges,” San Antonio attorney Michael McCrum said in a statement. “He has served the community for many years and never before has anything like this been alleged. So we look forward to having his day in court.”
According to the indictment, Delgado accepted two bribes each of $260 from a local lawyer identified in court papers only as “Attorney A” in exchange for agreeing to release a defendant from jail on a personal bond.
In January, Delgado allegedly accepted a third bribe of $5,500 as part of a similar arraignment with the attorney, while FBI agents conducted surveillance of the pair at a restaurant.
“Delgado acknowledged and accepted the bribe,” the criminal complaint detailing the allegations states.
But Delgado, who was re-elected to a four-year term in 2016, has found himself on the other side of the law before.
A year after first winning his judgeship in 2001, Delgado was almost forced off the bench while fighting DWI charges, but a visiting judge dismissed the case in 2005, court records show.
He was re-indicted on charges of evading arrest and misuse of official information connected to the DWI arrest, but those charges too were dropped. Delgado had been suspended in 2006 with pay pending the outcome of that criminal case.
That wasn’t Delgado’s first brush with the law. According to court documents, he had been convicted in May 1991 on a misdemeanor assault charge.
The embattled judge has also faced tough personal troubles: his 32-year-old son, a former Hidalgo County prosecutor, was found dead along an Austin hiking trail last year. Another one of his four sons died in a car accident at age 16 in 2007.
Delgado is scheduled to appear in Houston federal court next Friday at 10 am.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on each of the three bribery counts and a maximum of five years in prison on each of three Travel Act charges.