BROWNSVILLE —Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said he has turned over the evidence a Tejano superstar convicted of sex crimes against a child was seeking, but hasn’t heard about the test results.
Jose Manuel Lopez, better known as Joe Lopez from the Grammy-winning Supergrupo Mazz, was seeking DNA evidence used to convict him in 2006 on two counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child.
Last December, visiting state District Judge Federico Hinojosa ordered Saenz to turn over the evidence to Lopez’s attorney, Tim Hootman.
Although Saenz initially appealed the order, he has since stepped back and said he provided the DNA evidence to Hootman.
“It’s never been my intention in any way to thwart his effort to retest it,” Saenz said. “I have a vested interest in retesting it.”
The District Attorney said he wants the DNA evidence retested as well to make sure that the Department of Public Safety was following protocol and because Lopez was convicted when former District Attorney Armando Villalobos was in office. Villalobos has since been convicted of corruption and is in prison.
“I have to be realistic about it. There were some improprieties that had been engaged in by that administration so one had to think maybe this was one of them,” Saenz said. “So if there were some improprieties I need to know. Some people belong in jail and if this individual does not belong in jail then he shouldn’t be there.”
Saenz said he wouldn’t turn the evidence over without a court order because it would set an uncomfortable precedent for his office.
“From the very beginning, it was my position that he needed to follow the rules. And I say that because he kept saying turn these items over to me so I can retest them,” Saenz said. “If I turn them over to you, then who is going to be the next one?”
But Saenz said Hootman did not want the green shorts worn by the 13-year-old relative that Lopez was convicted of having sex with at his Rancho Viejo condominium in 2004. According to testimony and court records, investigators found Lopez’s sperm on the shorts.
Saenz said that Hootman wanted only the test data in that instance.
“In other words, how was it tested — and this is expert talk,” Saenz said. “What protocol did they follow? And I said is there anything else you want and he said, ‘No.’”
Hootman was not available for comment. However, in a letter written in May to the DA’s office, Hootman advised that his DNA expert received everything that was needed to comply with the trial court’s order.
Saenz asked the 13th Court of Criminal Appeals to dismiss his appeal, and according to the letter, Hootman is unopposed.
As for the results, Saenz said Hootman has had the evidence for two months and hasn’t said what the results indicate.
Lopez is serving a 32-year prison sentence.