By Juan Montoya
By now many people around town are asking why – if as Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz asserts the DNA evidence in the Joe Lopez case proves he's guilty of rape – he doesn't release it to his appeals attorney and get it over with?
The give and take over the release of the DNA has been dragged out for over nine months now and there seems to be no end at the end of the tunnel.
Saenz has steadfastly refused to hand over the DNA and other evidence requested by Lopez's attorneys claiming that they must adhere to the process outlined by the state. The counterclaim by Lopez's attorneys is that Saenz has the power to release it to prove that no hanky-panky took place when it was presented to the court by former DA Armando Villalobos.
And now we learn that when the victim (then 13 years old) made the charges against Lopez she was carrying the child of her boyfriend from Baytown who had been intimate with her since she was only 12. The man, now paying child support for two children from the girl, says he was never called to testify in the case by Lopez's defense attorneys but would be willing to submit himself to testify if the occasion should arise during the appeals process.
The victim, while under oath, told the jury that she didn't know who the father was, although she previously told doctors who examined her that it was her boyfriend's, an adult with whom she had lived with for the better part of a year.
Lopez was convicted of in 2006 for sexually assaulting and molesting the 13-year-old girl.
Since then, his appeal for a new trial has been turned down – but not dismissed – by the Texas 13th Court of Appeals. Lopez is eligible to apply for parole in 2016.
The Tejano star, whose real name is Jose Manuel Lopez, has been fighting for a new trial since his October 2006 conviction.
According to his Houston appeals attorney Timothy A. Hootman, when Lopez requested the DNA evidence presented ta his trial, then-DA Armando Villalobos failed to answer his request within the 10-day period. Lopez asked for all the DNA and other case evidence used in his conviction back in Nov. 26, 2012.
Many details surrounding the trial and conviction of Lopez has emerged after that time, including the fact that one of the attorneys defending the legendary frontsman for Mazz – Michael Trejo (on Joe's left in the photo) – acted as an in-between for payments made to the former DA for referring a wrongful death case. Federal prosecutors in the Villalobos racketeering trial submitted evidence that Trejo and Villalobos had what can only be described as a "cozy" relationship that linked both to an alleged scheme to kick back referral fees in the personal injury case involving Villalobos' sister-in-law.
In a supplement to the Villalobos indictment, "the government alleged that Villalobos referred a 2005 civil case involving his sister-in-law’s death to the law firm of Michael Cowen and Conrad Bodden. The case was settled for a substantial amount in April 2006. According to prosecutors, Villalobos received a referral fee in two checks, one for $60,000 and the other for $96,000.
The $60,000 check was made payable to attorney Michael Trejo, who was not involved with the case, but funneled the money to Villalobos, the court record states."
Not more than three months later, Trejo was Villaobos' adversary in the Lopez case.
His relatives say that the DNA evidence Villalobos said was acquired from the back of a pair of shorts that the victim wore is suspect. During the trial it was revealed that the garment had been mixed in with the rest of the family's dirty laundry and kept in a plastic trash bag for more than three months.
"During the (Lopez) trial, neither Trejo nor Young (Michael Young, the other defense attorney) objected to the DNA expert brought in by Villalobos," said his brother Raul Lopez. "It just so happened that my brother's case happened three months after Trejo delivered Villalobos the money from the other attorneys. Think about it. Villalobos was Joe's prosecutor and Trejo was his defense attorney. If Trejo was the in-between in the wrongful death case, could he have been in cahoots with Villalobos in Joe's case, too?"
Also missing from the jury's consideration was the medical report performed on the victim by Harris County
that showed she told doctors there that she was pregnant and was "depressed because we moved away from Baytown, my family and boyfriend."
A medical examination for her claim against Lopez indicates that doctors there found her to be "a sexually active adolescent...Examination is normal...(and found) no swelling, excoriation, bruising, or lacerations, or scarring."
A psychiatric evaluation of the minor found her to have an "adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct, chronic cannabis abuse, sexual abuse of child (victim), and parent-child relational problems."
At the time the examination was performed, she was "on probation for assault against stepfather and runaway...history of self-mutilation and hospitalized in October 2004, previous drug overdose requiring hospitalization."