Tejano singer Joe Lopez is considered an icon for some fans.
Lopez was the founder and front man for, Grupo Mazz, one of Tejano music’s successful acts.
Grupo Mazz formed back in the mid-70s and success followed with platinum records.
However, creative differences and infighting lead the band to split in the late 1990s without Joe.
The group went on to win a Latin Grammy award and multiple nominations.
While some love Joe Lopez for his music, others call him a molester and should stay in prison.
Currently Lopez is housed in Ramsey Unit 1 in Rosharon, Texas.
In 2006, the Brownsville, Texas native was convicted to 32 years in prison for sex crimes against a minor.
The victim his teenage niece. Krystal Lopez.
News Center 23 does not name victims of sexual assault however, Krystal Lopez has since gone public with her story.
But was Krystal Lopez a victim?
His legal team argues no crime was committed and a sworn affidavit by Krystal’s father, Joe Lopez brother says the outcry was false.
Joe Lopez claims he’s innocent to this day ad in Early January 2017, after 10 years in prison. Joe was granted parole. Legal counselors I spoke with called the parole, unprecedented.
However, shortly after media outlets reported Joe’s parole, Krystal Lopez contacted the state parole board pleading not to let her Uncle Joe out of prison.
This put Joe Lopez’s release in jeopardy according to his legal team.
News Center 23 went to a recording studio where Joe created music with his former bandmates.
Today, Joe’s brother, Lorezno Lopez, is running the studio.
“My brother he told me how to ride a bicycle…. [he was] always by myside.” Said Lorenzo while giving KVEO’s Derick Garcia a tour of the studio.
“This is the one he’s used on the road” said Lorenzo while pointing to an autographed black guitar.
Lorenzo, is hanging on to Joe’s prized possessions, including fan artwork, sequenced jackets and leather pants.
Mazz was known for their fashion in Tejano music as well as incorporating keyboards into their music.
Lorenzo says he knows his brother is innocent.
He blames poor legal representation during Joe’s trial and appeals process for keeping him locked up.
“We feel it was like a setup we don’t know anything about law we’re starting to learn about law at that time we didn’t know anything we knew about music but not about law” said Lorenzo while sitting beside Joe’s legal representative Sandra Trevino.
According to Lorenzo and Joe’s new legal team, parole has never been “plan A”. Instead since the conviction, exoneration has been top priority but achieving their goal has been difficult.
“We have proof that we are innocent” said Lorenzo Lopez
“We have two affidavits they clearly show that Krystal Lopez spoke two different individuals indicating to them that nothing ever happened” said Sandra Trevino.
Trevino did not know Joe before his conviction but says she understands his situation.
Her now ex-husband, Michael Trevino, was in a similar position. Trevino was convicted of sexual assault of his 8-year-old-daughter in 1993. Trevino pled no contest and was convicted but in 2009, the victim recanted her story. In fact, she was assaulted by her step-father.
In 2012, Trevino’s attorney, William Habern, had her husband’s exonerated.
Habern is now Joe’s attorney.
“It’s going to take some time.” Said Sandra Trevino with a stack of testimony, sworn affidavits and notes on her lap.
Joe’s team plans to use the evidence that convicted him, to clear his name more than 10 years later.
The evidence they claim is at their disposal:
-Possible, crime lab evidence discrepancies,
-Contradicting testimony by the victim,
-An extortion letter written by Krystal for millions of dollars in hush money.
-An ongoing battle between Joe Lopez and the then Cameron County District Attorney over money.
But their smoking gun, “We have a an exhibit that was part of the record that was signed notarized by the brother Joe Lopez who clearly admits contaminating the [green] shorts… He clearly states how he did it, where he did it and when he did it” said Sandra holding the copy of the document.
Joe’s DNA was on his niece’s green shorts.
The shorts were used at the most critical piece of evidence by the state. But was it properly vetted in court.
Also, why would Joe’s Brother intentionally contaminate evidence?
According to the affidavit, and Joe’s legal team, Saul Lopez was enraged when the rape kit results came back suggesting no assault had occurred.
“He [Saul Lopez] felt fearful because his daughter was out there being named as a bad person and he did not want it to be negative” explained Trevino.
During the trial, Krystal Lopez’s behavior was brought to light.
At 13-years-old, Krystal’s sexual activity, a pregnancy and runaway episodes were discussed.
However, a guilty conscience prompted Saul Lopez, Krystal’s father, to confess to the District Attorney’s office he contaminated evidence, before Joe’s arraignment.
The conversation was never brought into question at the trial.
In the affidavit, Saul writes the District Attorney’s office told him, if Krystal changed her story, she’d be charged with perjury.
“The DNA evidence is what got Joe his imprisonment. Had that truth been submitted Joe would have never been sent to prison because then there would have been a reasonable doubt about their DNA evidence.” Said Trevino.
At the time of the outcry, Joe Lopez was recovering from “major hip surgery” (his medical records were part of the testimony) and could not have intercourse.
Joe’s wife had performed oral sex on Joe and semen was on a towel.
In the affidavit, Saul explains he tainted the shorts with a towel that had Joe’s semen on it.
At the time he didn’t tell the DA’s office how he planted the evidence on the shorts but years later after the conviction he explained to Lorenzo in full detail.
9 years after the conviction, on June 30th 2015, the Texas Department of Public Safety released an advisory.
In short, the DPS was alerted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations of errors in their match statistics in criminal investigations.
Crime labs across the county began correcting errors.
DPS said “during implementation of corrective measures minor discrepancies were discovered in additional data used exclusively by the Texas Department of Publics Safety… Further the database corrections have no impact on the inclusion or exclusion of victims or defendants in any result.”
Joe’s legal team has their doubts on the validity of the matching methods.
Lorenzo is on the records saying District Attorney Armando Villalobos had a vendetta against Joe.
On Halloween day 2006, Joe was sentenced and 7 years, 3 months and 11 days later, Villalobos was sentenced to 13 years in prison for bribery and extortion.
According the FBI, a jury found Villalobos guilty in a money for court favors scheme.
Villalobos accepted more than 100,000 dollars in bribes in exchange minimizing charges and pretrial diversion agreements and more.
The vendetta, Joe’s legal team says Villalobos, had heading into the trial was over money.
“[District attorney] Villalobos paid Joe a deposit money to play at a political dance or concert… and then he [Villalobos] says ‘I’m going to cancel… I want my money back’. Joe told him ‘I’m sorry. I can’t give you back your money. It’s too late. The contract says more than 30 days and it was two weeks before the event. So that started something against you and Villalobos and it’s so weird 6 months later this came up”
In short, with a former DA in federal prison with an alleged vendetta, sworn testimony of evidence tampering and a victim whose father says she wanted to recant her story, Joe’s legal team says an exoneration isn’t just possible, it’s likely.