Gov. Hickenlooper pardons Rene Lima-Marin; issues statement

Governor Hickenlooper is responding to criticism over his decision to grant his first pardon as governor to a man facing deportation.

DENVER - Governor Hickenlooper announced a pardon for Rene Lima-Marin Friday afternoon, his first pardon in his six years in office.

In a press conference, Governor Hickenlooper announced he would pardon the man convicted of a crime, released erroneously early, re-arrested and released again this week only to be put into ICE custody. 

Rene Lima-Marin, who came here from Cuba as a child, was sentenced to two prison terms totaling 98 years back in 2000 for a pair of robberies he committed when he was a teenager. The sentences were supposed to be served consecutively, but a court clerk marked them as a single term. The error allowed for Lima-Marin’s release in 2008.

Lima-Marin's immigration status and the possibility of deportation were not known to Judge Carlos Samour Jr. -  who freed him, the state legislators who rallied to his cause, the public that was implored to support his release, or Hickenlooper until ICE agents detained Lima-Marin.

"In terms of rehabilitation, he demonstrated an ability to contribute to the fabric of his community, and to Colorado. He has re-built his life. He is a law-abiding, productive member of his community. The legislative General Assembly was almost unanimously in support of this decision. The judicial branch is also in support of Lima-Marin's pursuit of justice ... I just got off the phone with his wife, who, needless to say was ecstatic."

A statement released from the Governor's Office of Legal Counsel on Saturday said on the pardon:

The Governor has broad discretion under the Colorado Constitution to grant pardons and may waive the requirement that an applicant wait for certain periods of time before applying for a pardon.  Lima-Marin was released in 2008 and successfully completed parole. Chief Judge Samour recently found that any subsequent confinement was unlawful.  While we typically ask applicants to wait seven years after completing their sentence before applying for a pardon, we made an exception in this case because of the gross injustice Chief Judge Samour and others identified. 

Hickenlooper stressed the bi-partisan support offered to Lima-Marin as he sought to be released from prison.

"This was a question of justice. The duty of society is justice," the governor said.

Watch the full press conference here:

On whether the pardon eliminates ICE involvement, the governor said, "I'm not a lawyer and I'm not sure that's the case." 

ICE issued this statement in response to the governor's announcement:

ICE custody pending his removal to Cuba since he is on the Cuban Repatriation List, and he currently has final orders of removal from a federal immigration judge.

PREVIOUS STORY: How did no one know a felon who was ordered to go free was flagged for deportation?

Once released in 2008, he got married and stayed out of trouble. In 2014, the courts realized their mistake and remanded him back to prison. 

Lima-Marin's attorney believes it's time for him to go back home now, but Hans Meyer knows they have a challenge ahead.

“We just got off the phone with Rene to give him the news and he is humbled and in many ways did not have the words to describe how thankful he felt. Understanding he also knows, that we still have a significant amount of work to do and we still have a fight ahead.”

Meyer says Lima-Marin's legal team will see if they can work with ICE to reopen the case and make him a resident.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted Lima-Marin, took to Twitter to express his displeasure at Marin's pardon by the governor. 

Brauchler said he would not "issue a pardon intended solely to defeat federal immigration law."

Brauchler, who is running for governor in the next election, also provided what he labeled a "trophy photo" of Lima Marin and his co-defendant, posing with weapons and cash after after the robberies they were convicted of. Brauchler's office sent it to 9NEWS without solicitation; the District Attorney suggested that pardoning Lima Marin ahead of the 100 plus other people requesting pardons from Governor Hickenlooper amounted to a photo op.

Brauchler said it appears the governor isn’t following Colorado law in issuing the pardon because the governor’s office hadn’t sent the DA’s office an application for a pardon.

Gov. Hickenlooper’s office said the clemency application submitted to Brauchler’s office did follow guidelines and did include a pardon request.

The full statement that the Governor's Office of Legal Counsel issued in response Saturday is as follows:

The Governor’s Office solicited input from the District Attorney’s Office and received input within the fourteen days required by statute. In fact, the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel received a lengthy response from Mr. Brauchler’s Chief Deputy District Attorney on Mr. Brauchler’s letterhead, dated May 15, 2017.  It is common to receive responses from attorneys in the office other than the elected District Attorney.  The Chief Deputy District Attorney’s response included, among other things, input from the victims, which the Governor carefully considered.

In addition, the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel reached out to the prosecuting attorney, who is now a magistrate.  He indicated through a representative that he did not wish to weigh in on the clemency application. 

The Governor has broad discretion under the Colorado Constitution to grant pardons and may waive the requirement that an applicant wait for certain periods of time before applying for a pardon.  Lima-Marin was released in 2008 and successfully completed parole. Chief Judge Samour recently found that any subsequent confinement was unlawful.  While we typically ask applicants to wait seven years after completing their sentence before applying for a pardon, we made an exception in this case because of the gross injustice Chief Judge Samour and others identified. 

Mr. Lima-Marin asked for a pardon or, in the alternative, a commutation of his sentence. The pardon request is clearly stated in a letter from his attorney, which is included in the clemency packet. The redacted application provided to media is only part of the complete application.  

Hickenlooper was asked on Friday whether he'll issue a second pardon, or a third, to a rehabilitated ex-con who is an American citizen.

"Hopefully in the next couple of weeks there will be other news for people who have requested pardons, again in almost all of these early cases, there are people who have done the same kind of work, they have recreated their lives," Hickenlooper said.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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