HARLINGEN — After 11 years, Tejano star Joe Lopez will soon be released from prison.
On Jan. 26, the Texas Pardons and Parole Board granted Lopez, 67, parole after he served a nine-month Sex Offender Treatment Program.
“It’s about time they released him,” Bill Habern, Lopez’s former attorney, said yesterday.
In 2006, a Cameron County jury gave Lopez 32 years in prison for raping his niece Krystal Lopez 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, eight years for a second count of aggravated sexual assault of a child and four years for indecency with a child.
But because he was serving his sentences simultaneously, he was ordered to serve 20 years in prison.
Krystal Lopez, now 27, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The board’s decision about a year ago to order Lopez complete the nine-month Sex Offender Treatment Program came after she told the board she opposed her uncle’s parole.
Now, Lopez is being held in the Hightower Unit in Dayton, where he is undergoing a releasing process expected to take 30 to 45 days.
The state has set no official release date.
But Lopez could be released by mid February, Andy Kahan, the city of Houston’s victim advocate, said yesterday as he reviewed the case.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.
Upon his release, Lopez will undergo “supervised parole” through Oct. 31, 2026.
Habern said he believed Lopez would be exonerated.
“I think he’s an innocent man,” Habern said. “I think eventually he’ll be proven to be innocent.”
However, the Sex Offender Program requires Lopez admit he committed the crimes for which he was convicted, Robert Hurst, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, stated yesterday.
“For him to be successfully paroled, he must admit to the offense,” Kahan said.
Kahan said he has been in contact with Krystal Lopez.
“She feels that no one can smear her reputation and no one can claim she falsely accused him anymore,” Kahan said.
Early last year, it appeared the state would release Lopez from prison by last fall.
But in February 2017, the parole board ordered Lopez complete the nine-month Sex Offender Treatment Program after it gave Krystal Lopez an opportunity to make her case against her uncle.
Kahan had requested the state grant Krystal Lopez the 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.
Krystal Lopez’s information led the board to extend the length of Lopez’s Sex Offender Treatment Program from four to nine months, Kahan said.
The parole board has ordered Lopez not to contact Krystal Lopez nor enter Harris County without prior approval.
Lopez was also ordered “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.”
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.
No contact with Krystal Lopez
No unapproved contact with persons 17 or younger
Registration as a sex offender
Undergo a “super-intensive” supervision program through October 2026