A former Texas state judge convicted of accepting bribes in return for favorable rulings asked a federal court for compassionate release from prison Monday, arguing that given his myriad of health issues and the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, his prison sentence could kill him.
Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado, 67, who is serving a five-year sentence after he was caught in an FBI sting that involved a wired criminal defense attorney, says he was diagnosed with hyperglycemia, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia and has received a liver transplant — all of which would make him a high-risk patient were he to contract the virus.
“This court never intended its sentence of imprisonment to practically result in a death sentence,” Delgado said. “It is not hyperbole to consider that Mr. Delgado is serving a sentence in a situation in which there is a significant likelihood of severe illness and death.”
In July 2019, following a six-day trial, a Texas federal jury convicted Delgado of one count of conspiracy, three counts of federal program bribery, three counts of Travel Act bribery and one count of obstruction of justice.
Delgado, who served on the 93rd District Court in Hidalgo County before he was sworn in as a justice on the state’s Thirteenth Court of Appeals, was suspended without pay in January 2019 by Texas’ State Commission on Judicial Conduct in light of the federal bribery charges.
He was arrested in February 2018 after the sting operation, in which an attorney source worked with law enforcement for over a year to record phone calls and in-person meetings with the judge.
On Jan. 17, 2018, following FBI instructions, the attorney called Delgado and set up a meeting at a restaurant. Once outside, the attorney-informant texted Delgado and asked the judge to come outside, adding, “I have something,” according to an FBI affidavit.
Delgado came outside and got into the attorney’s vehicle, and the attorney offered the judge $5,500 in exchange for help on a client’s case, the affidavit said.
“Delgado acknowledged and accepted the bribe,” the affidavit said, adding that the judge asked for, and wrote down, the name of the client and the case number. The next day, Delgado placed the attorney’s client on bond.
Judge Delgado was indicted and pled not guilty in March 2018.
He’s five months into his sentence and argued Monday that he’s “tried to make the best of his time there.”
He has a job cleaning up the compound with a broom and dustpan, according to the motion. He’s enrolled in a spiritual program and a program to address his alcohol use, the motion said.
“Clearly, Mr. Delgado has worked hard in these past five months to address the factors that brought him to be investigated and prosecuted and is demonstrating a contrite and humble spirit,” he said. “In other words, this motion is not being filed by a person who is moaning and complaining about being in prison, sitting around waiting for the day to be released.”