The arrest of a state district judge by the FBI last week has spurred up the discussion of corruption in South Texas.
The FBI arrest of the 93rd District Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado’s on February 2 has stirred up talk of a larger circle of corruption as rumors of pending arrests have begun to circulate. This arrest has become a “hot topic” in national media outlets.
The criminal complaint against Delgado for bribery has had others wondering the outcome of the 93rd District Court as the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in Texas is currently investigating Delgado’s case.
Texas Scorecard reached out to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct as they have yet to publish anything online about their investigation. Eric Vinson, Executive Director, stated, “Due to the Texas Constitution, we can cannot confirm nor deny the existence of any complaint against the judge. Once he’s indicted, the commission, which is made up of 13 members from around the state, will then take a vote whether to suspend him or not. At the moment, he is not suspended in any formal sense.”
Separate from the commission, the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region appointed retired Cameron County Judge of the 138th Judicial District, Robert Garza, to replace Delgado in the 93rd District Court. The court services the region’s 11 South Texas counties.
“We don’t know how long Judge Garza will be here,” Delgado’s court staff stated. Delgado’s term runs through 2020. However, Delgado mentioned his uncertainty moving forward in his campaign for 13th Court of Appeals Place 4.
He has no Democratic opponent in the primaries, but his challenger in the November general election, TFR-endorsed Republican candidate Jaime Tijerina, plays a different tune compared to Delgado. While Delgado was being arrested on February 2, Tijerina was in San Antonio participating in a military training as he serves as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.
In an exclusive interview with Texas Scorecard, Tijerina states he was participating in a “three-day weekend battle assembly” when Delgado was arrested.
“In my unit, we’re all lawyers, but we were preparing for a two-week exercise in March at Ft. Knox. We went out to the range, slept in tents, and other basic soldier training. On that Friday, the first message was a text around 3 pm stating FBI was at the courthouse. By 5 pm, [once it was confirmed Delgado was in custody] my phone went crazy.”
Advancing into the primaries, Tijerina states:
“I don’t want to get too confident; so many things can happen. We’re still running our race, and there’s a lot of unknowns. If we hit the 75th day without replacement, that has yet to be seen…as we get closer, we’ll know about Delgado’s case. Overall, I’m saddened for the community. It’s just another mark on the legal/judiciary system that we’ve been fighting hard to build the trust, and we’ll keep trying to build that confidence back again with the public.”
According to Texas Election Code, neither an arrest nor a pending indictment disqualifies a candidate from seeking office.
Since Delgado’s arrest, the FBI’s “confidential informant attorney” has been identified as Noe Perez, a local attorney who practices criminal, family, and immigration law. Since then, rumors have circulated that five other elected officials within Hidalgo County have “lawyered up” since they all had private encounters within the past two years with attorney Perez during his cooperation with the FBI investigation. However, as Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia states, “there’s always rumors.”
Thanks to the Sixth Amendment, all criminal defendants are guaranteed a speedy trial. Depending on the criminal investigation brought against Delgado, it could take up to 30 days or possibly longer for a grand jury to indict him.