Latin Grammy-winning singer and convicted rapist Joe Lopez has been granted permission to return to Houston, Texas, to relaunch his career, even though he was originally excluded from the city his victim calls home.
Lopez was paroled in March 2018 after serving 12 years of a 20-year sentence for sexually assaulting his 13-year-old niece in 2004.
As part of the terms of his release, Lopez was ordered to register as a sex offender and remain outside Harris County, where his young relative lives.
However, the 69-year-old man now plans to organize his return with a concert with sold-out tickets in Houston at El Rodeo nightclub on December 13, after Texas Board of Pardons and Parole officials decided he could set foot in the area “for employment purposes only” citing his “satisfactory compliance with parole since his release,” according to spokesman Raymond Estrada.
“In making the decision, the parole panel reviewed his satisfactory compliance with parole since his release date of March 2018,” Estrada said. “Additionally, the board recognizes the importance of employment as being a critical component to successful re-entry for offenders, and if public safety is not compromised, we support such initiatives.”
The ruling, granted last week, has been heavily criticized by Andy Kahan, who represents Crime Stoppers Houston and has been a supporter of Lopez’s victim for years.
“To pick Harris County as your first choice when you could’ve gone anywhere in the state from our perspective sends a sinister and subliminal message,” Kahan told Fox 26 Houston. “To me, the message that this sends to sexual assault victims and any victim in the community is that your rights are circumvented by the rights of a convicted felon.”
López’s manager, Sandra Vallejo, insists that her client, who maintains her innocence, deserves to rebuild her life while seeking exoneration.
“For every person against him, there are three more who support him,” he said.
His lawyer, Allison Clayton, added: “Joe is eager to act again because he loves his fans so much.”
The Houston concert will mark the first on Lopez’s Freedom Tour.
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