Joe Lopez’s release delayed

HARLINGEN — Just a few weeks ago, it appeared Tejano star Joe Lopez would be freed from prison by fall.

However, a state decision this week postponed his release.

Lopez has been ordered to complete a longer program aimed at treating sex offenders before he is eligible for release.

The Texas Pardons and Parole Board ordered Lopez, 66, to complete a nine-month Sex Offender Treatment Program to begin in May, Raymond Estrada, the board’s spokesman, said yesterday.

When the board granted Lopez parole last month, it ordered he complete a four-month Sex Offender Treatment Program.

That was expected to have him home as the summer heat subsided.

Instead, Lopez’s release won’t be until 2018.

“Upon the receipt of additional information, the parole panel determined that requiring completion of a nine-month Sex Offender Treatment Program was more appropriate than a four-month treatment program,” Estrada said in a statement.

The board’s decision to order Lopez complete the Sex Offender Treatment Program came after Krystal Lopez told the board she opposed her uncle’s parole.

In 2006, a Cameron County jury gave Lopez 32 years for raping Krystal in 2004, when she was 13.

Lopez, a Grammy-award winning singer and co-founder of Grupo Mazz, was sentenced to 20 years for one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child; 8 years for a second count of aggravated sexual assault of a child; and four years for indecency with a child.

But since he’s serving his sentences simultaneously, he was ordered to serve 20 years in prison.

Because the parole board apparently failed to notify Krystal of its intention to decide on her uncle’s parole, on Feb. 2 a board member met with her during an hour-long special review hearing.

“I don’t feel good about it — that he’s going to be out,” Krystal, 26, a bio technician in Houston, said yesterday. “I’m kind of glad the program is going to extend his stay there at least till next year.”

Andy Kahan, the city of Houston’s victims advocate, said Krystal’s information led the board to extend the length of Lopez’s Sex Offender Treatment Program.

Last month, Kahan requested the state grant Krystal a special review hearing because she did not receive the opportunity to make her case before the board voted to grant Lopez’s parole.

Kahan said she had not registered with the state’s Victim Notification System, which notifies victims of such information as parole hearings.

“We’re extremely disappointed they didn’t rescind their decision,” Kahan said, referring to Lopez’s parole. “We certainly feel we gave them ample opportunity.”

The board considered information from both sides before deciding to go ahead with Lopez’s parole, said Bill Habern, a Houston attorney representing Lopez.

“They made the right decision,” Habern said. “They gave the woman the opportunity to appear with assistance and make her pitch. We presented some additional evidence.”

But the board also extended Lopez’s Sex Offender Treatment Program, Habern said.

“I regret he’s got to stay there five more months,” he said.

The parole board also ordered Lopez “not reside with, contact or cause to be contacted any person 17 years of age or younger in person, by telephone, correspondence, video or audio device, third person, media or any electronic means, unless approved by the supervising parole officer.”

Lopez also was ordered not to contact Krystal nor enter Harris County without prior approval.

The board also ordered Lopez register as a sex offender; have no unsupervised contact with children under 17; undergo a “super-intensive” supervision program; and have no Internet access.

The parole board has cited two reasons behind its decision to grant Lopez parole, said Timothy McDonnell, board administrator for the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

McDonnell said Lopez completed “programs and activities in the individual treatment program plan that should enhance chances to obtain and maintain full-time employment,” and this is his first incarceration.