Day One: Former Judge Rudy Delgado's Trial
MCALLEN - A camera pointed at the passenger side of a local criminal defense attorney's vehicle captured the moment a former district judge opened the door and sat down.
Then Judge Rodolfo 'Rudy' Delgado of the 93rd District Court began talking with the attorney, Noe Perez, who is off-camera.
According to federal agents who recorded the interview with Perez's help, the conversation took place Jan 17, 2018.
Perez and Delgado decided to meet outside a restaurant.
Within moments of Delgado's arrival, Perez told him he was handing him over an envelope with $5,500 in cash.
Delgado accepted it and then proceeded to discuss a case Perez brought up.
Judge Delgado asked for details including the case number and directed Perez to "write it in a little piece of paper. I'm going to forget it."
This is one of the multiple recordings shared with the jury who is deciding Delgado's fate on eight counts of bribery, Travel Act violations, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy.
Opening statements began today in the McAllen federal courthouse, in spite of previous attempts to move the venue to Houston.
Attorneys representing the federal government told the jury their evidence would paint a different side to Rodolfo Delgado.
They previewed their evidence and drew an outline of the arguments in a visual presentation shown during opening statements.
Delgado's attorney's countered by questioning Noe Perez' character. He served as the government's sole witness during the first day of trial.
Perez began working as an informant for the FBI in 2016 when, according to Delgado's attorneys, Perez was threatened with evidence against him that would cause financial trouble and lead to criminal charges.
During that meeting with the FBI, Perez admitted to "puffing" with clients.
That term was defined as creating the illusion that the attorney can gain a favorable outcome through financial means, or as Perez said when pressed for clarity, "bribes."
He told agents he did this to get more money from clients.
Prosecutors argued their evidence pointed to the illicit dealings beginning in 2008 when Perez received a truck from a client as a form of payment.
Government attorneys showed documentation with Delgado's son's name on a form proving purchase of the vehicle.
Perez essentially gave up the truck without receiving payment from Delgado.
Instead of money, Perez told the court he believed it gave him "access to the judge," and that after that incident Perez "would ask for things and they'd be granted."
The favors continued through 2018, according to Perez.
After he agreed to work with the FBI, several other meetings were recorded some of those at the judge's home.
Perez would take beer to the judge and slip money into the boxes, usually about $250.00 in cash.
The jury heard recordings of those meetings in which the judge and Perez discussed purchasing "wood."
Perez said he did purchase actual mesquite wood from the judge's ranch.
However, he estimated the retail price for the amount he bought at about $40, not $250 as he normally paid.
Under questioning from the government, Perez said the "wood" was coded language for judicial favors.
On two recorded attempts, Perez asked Delgado whether he could help him out with a particular potential client who was caught with 300 kilos of cocaine and not prosecuted.
Delgado is heard warning Perez of taking up such a case.
The federal government had decided not to prosecute, and Delgado expressed concern saying, "Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding", adding, "danger!"
The judge felt it was a set-up by the federal government who he said "views the state system as corrupt -- from the JPs, DAs, to lawyers and judges."
His advice to Perez was, "let's let this booby trap swim up the river." He rejected the offer a second time on a separate occasion.
During the recording, Delgado kept his composure, stayed engaged, and took notes.
He visibly shifted in his seat and reached down for a drink of water when he was heard talking about women's roles in romantic relationships.
The first day wrapped up with the examination of the witness by the prosecution.
Monday, Delgado's attorneys will have a chance to cross-exam the witness.
The court is scheduled to start again at 9 a.m.