Amarillo, TX -- After twelve long years of litigation, an Amarillo man once convicted of sexually assaulting a 6 month-old girl is now a free man.
Ernest Lopez II was released this afternoon (Jan. 4) as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors - and the reasons behind the deal are as complicated as the case itself.
In 2001, Lopez was charged with the aggravated sexual assault of 6 month-old Isis Vas, who later died from her injuries. Lopez was tried and convicted in 2003 and was sentenced to 60 years.
His case was eventually overturned earlier this year, largely due to medical arguments, as 47th District Attorney Randall Sims explained in a press conference Friday (Jan. 4), "The whole thing boils down to medical testimony in regards to particularly, the issue of whether or not any physical injury was caused by Mr. Lopez."
On Friday, (Jan.4), Lopez signed a plea bargain to accept the lesser charge of causing serious bodily injury to a child - which in this case carried with it the much lighter sentence of nine years.
And as part of the agreement, the nine years and two months Lopez has already served are applied toward the new charge.
"At the very worst at this point, he probably would have been eligible for parole," said Sims. "He has done well in prison over these nine years; he has not caused any problems to speak of, and that's the reason we chose to do the nine-year sentence and make it a time-served offer."
Sims says the girl's mother is aware of Lopez's release, and is simply grateful for the ending of a long and painful battle.