Former South Valley middle school employee sentenced to 12 years for sex crimes

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Luis Lopez was sentenced to 12 years in state prison. He'll also have to register as a sex offender for life, after a jury found him guilty of 15 felony sex charges involving two minors at Valley Oak Middle School, where Lopez was a campus supervisor. (KFSN)

Friday morning, Judge Kathy Montejano sentenced Luis Lopez to 12 years in state prison. He'll also have to register as a sex offender for life after a jury found him guilty of 15 felony sex charges involving two minors at Valley Oak Middle School, where Lopez was a campus supervisor.

He had access to the school's Bronco room; some of the sex acts occurred there.

"One of the victims never even reported to the police," said Tulare County Assistant District Attorney David Alavezos. "Initially her contact was with a friend, who she said this is what happened to me, and the friend contacted school officials and that's how it got brought to light. We're not talking about people who were looking to somehow cause a problem for the defendant."

Lopez's defense attorney Eric Schweitzer says the victims' testimony at trial was different from what they told police more than three years ago, and that jurors did not hear all of the evidence at trial.

Schweitzer says some was left out due to rulings by the judge. He acknowledges they were difficult decisions to make.

"They don't always come out in a way that we expect or would like," Schweitzer said. "But that's what the appellate process is there for, that's what due process is there for and we expect to see Mr. Lopez prevail in that process at some level."

Schweitzer says Lopez will appeal his conviction. His family told us the same after the verdict, and Friday they released a statement to Action News:

"On behalf of the friends and family of Luis Lopez, I'd like to take this time to say that we are proud of the efforts he has made stand up for his innocence. Throughout this trial, multiple pieces of evidence that could exonerate Luis were dismissed. The inconsistencies in the alleged victims' testimony, as well as evidence shedding light on the alleged victims' credibility, have not had the bearing they should on this trial. How can the jury not be allowed (to) consider the history of false claims put out by an alleged victim? The history of deviance exhibited by these accusers was not allowed to be presented to the jury despite its relevance. Nude pictures, used as blackmail, police reports, and CPS records reveal troubled individuals, one of whom accused her parent of abuse and rape in hopes of manipulating the system. When deciding the fate of the man we know as a loving son, caring husband, and nurturing father, please consider the possibility that these accusers are not acting in courage and conviction but in self-interest and manipulation."

"This is their son, this is their husband, their father, this is somebody that has no criminal record, no incidences with the law, has always behaved very much in tune with the community," Schweitzer said.

But prosecutors believe Lopez abused his position of trust and will begin paying for that abuse starting now.

The DA prosecutor Chelsea Wayt said the alleged victim didn't report crimes and dismiss(ed) them as rumors and she did have some inconsistencies and there were some things she didn't remember exactly.

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