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Gov. Hickenlooper pardons ICE-detained inmate Rene Lima-Marin

May 19, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 7:38 pm
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FILE - In this May 7, 2014 file photo, Rene Lima-Marin sits for an interview with The Associated Press about the circumstances of his sentencing and incarceration, in a meeting room inside Kit Carson Correctional Center, a privately operated prison in Burlington, Colo. Lima-Marin was sent back to prison after being mistakenly released 90 years early. Colorado's House of Representatives unanimously endorsed a resolution on Friday, April 21, 2017 urging the governor to grant him clemency. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Friday he had granted Rene Lima-Marin a full pardon in hopes in hopes it would save him from being deported to his native Cuba.

The Democratic governor also hinted that additional pardons are coming, declining to elaborate except to say he has been working on a list for several months.

Cuban-born, but raised in the United States, Lima-Marin was convicted in 2000 of multiple robbery, kidnapping and burglary counts after he and an accomplice robbed two video stores at gunpoint.

Lima-Marin, who was sentenced to 98 years in prison, was mistakenly released on parole in 2008. While free, he held a steady job and got married. He was returned to prison after authorities discovered their mistake in 2014.

Earlier this week, Lima-Marin was again freed, by a judge who said keeping him in prison any longer would be unjust. Hickenlooper and the judge cited Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, that the first duty of society is justice.

However, on Wednesday, U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement put a hold on him, despite the court-ordered release from prison.

The pardon, while intended to prevent Lima-Marin’s deportation, may not have that effect.

“This is an extraordinary case not to be taken lightly,” Hickenlooper said. “There were a number of factors surrounding the decision.

Obviously, in terms of rehabilitation, he demonstrated an ability to contribute to the fabric of his community in Colorado. He’s rebuilt his life. He has become a law-abiding productive member of his community.”

Hans Meyer, an attorney for Lima-Marin, said the governor’s announcement “stunned” his client.

“Rene’s immigration fight is still not over,” Meyer said. “We still have critical and immediate work to do to prevent his deportation and reunite him with his family.

“We hope that ICE will work with us to release Rene from custody and allow us to reopen his immigration case, restore his lawful permanent status, and reunite with his family. Thanks to this important step by the governor, we are one step closer to reuniting Rene with his wife and children.”

Lima-Marin’s wife, Jasmine, who had decorated their Aurora house in anticipation of a homecoming, according to reports, said in a statement, “I am so excited to hear this news in support of Rene! Our family is so grateful for the actions taken by our governor today.”

Hickenlooper also spoke with Lima-Marin’s wife, who described her response as “ecstatic.”

The governor highlighted that the Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution earlier this month urging him to grant Lima-Marin clemency.

Reps. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, and Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, sent a letter to Hickenlooper earlier this week urging a pardon in response to the ICE hold.

“I’m grateful to Governor Hickenlooper for his incredible act of mercy and humanitarian relief to Rene and his family,” Williams said in a statement. “This was never a partisan issue. ... All three branches of our Colorado government came together to reunite Rene with his family, and at the end of the day that is what matters most.”

Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who co-sponsored the resolution asking for clemency, added, “When government gets in the way of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it’s our job as elected representatives of the people to preserve those rights. We’re grateful to Governor Hickenlooper for joining with the Legislature in helping to resolve this problem.”

Hickenlooper also signaled on Friday that additional pardons are coming, though not necessarily in immigration cases.

“Hopefully in the next couple of weeks there will be other news for people who requested pardons,” Hickenlooper said.

“These are people who have done the same kind of work, they’ve rehabilitated their lives. ... Colorado should be the worst place to commit a violent crime and the best place to get a second chance.”

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