A former high school soccer coach in Texas got 60 days in jail and eight years probation for having sex with a 17-year-old female student.
Eber Lopez, 36, learned his fate Tuesday when State District Judge Robert Johnson sentenced the former Aldine Independent School District teacher to spend two months in jail followed by eight years of deferred adjudication probation, a type of punishment that translates into Lopez walking away with no criminal record if he successfully completes the terms of his sentence. However, if he does not, Lopez could face 10 years in prison.
The judge ordered him to have no contact with the victim or her family and turn himself into the jail immediately, according to KTRK. Some Aldine ISD parents were disappointed with Lopez’s sentence, feeling he should have received a stiffer penalty, including more jail time. Prosecutors requested a harsher punishment, although they said they said they found the sentence acceptable.
Authorities charged Lopez with having an improper relationship with the Nimitz High School teenager last year. Breitbart Texas reported he met with the girl for sex more than 10 times at either a local motel or in the suspect’s car between September 2015 and January 2016. Their repeated dalliances became public when another student tipped off Aldine ISD administrators about the teacher and student’s relationship. Investigators later confirmed the relationship from explicit text messages, FaceTime calls, and photographs Lopez purportedly sent to the girl’s phone. The girl also gave police information on the dates and venues where the two hooked up. At the time, Lopez was jailed and later released on $30,000 bail. He signed a strict set of bond conditions, including agreeing to have no contact with the student.
Lopez admitted to having sex with the unidentified teenage girl but because she was of the age of consent, he was charged under a law that criminalizes an educator’s actions for taking advantage of a student, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Harris County Prosecutor JoAnne Musick told KTRK: “This case is a little bit different because we see a 17-year-0ld student. They’re just on the verge of graduating, they’re 17 turning 18 and the law allows the 17-year-old to consent to sexual relations. There only problem here is, it can’t be with someone in the school district.”
Since 2008, the number of teacher-student sexual misconduct cases opened by the Educator Investigations Unit of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) jumped 80 percent to an alarming eight year high of 222 reported incidents in the 2015-16 school year.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick charged the Texas Education Committee with the interim legislative session task of identify policy solutions to this ever escalating problem in late 2015. Then, in October 2016, the TEA announced plans to ask state lawmakers to fund nearly $400,000 in their 2018-19 to increase staff to better investigate such cases.
Recently, Governor Greg Abbott called for legislation that imposed strong consequences on education professionals who violate the public trust by crossing the line sexually with students and for those school administrators who ignore the problem. Several bills were introduced into the state’s ongoing 85th Legislature that address this vexing crisis — Senate Bill 7, written by Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), and House Bill 218, authored by Representative Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park).
These bills criminalize the actions of educators who engage sexually with students, close loopholes in the law, and stiffen prosecution measures against such deviant educator behavior. They also hold administrators to account with jail time when they fail to report teacher sexual misdeeds, prohibit school districts from rehiring convicted educator sexual predators, and mandate the automatic revocation of a teaching credential even if an educator only receives deferred adjudication.
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