AURORA, COLO. - There's been an astonishing turn in the case of the man from Aurora, who was mistakenly released from prison decades early, lived free for years, was re-arrested, and then just ordered freed for good.
Rene Lima-Marin is now in the custody of Immigrations and Customs Agents who - years ago - had flagged him for deportation. Lima-Marin's immigration status and possible deportation were not known to the judge who freed him, the state legislators who rallied to his cause, or the public which was implored to support his release.
Lima Marin's advocates say he was brought to the US as a child fleeing Cuba. Cubans special status in the U.S. meant he wasn't at risk for deportation, until he became a convicted felon in 2000. ICE flagged him for possible deportation at that time.
The ruling this week by Judge Carlos Samour did not mention Lima-Marin's immigration status. A court spokesman confirms the Judge didn't know he was freeing a man into the hands of ICE agents. He found out on Wednesday.
Lima-Marin's local attorney also appeared blindsided, when Next anchor Kyle Clark spoke to her by phone on Wednesday.
KC: "Did you guys know that this was going to happen, that this was going to be another step in the process, or did it come as a surprise to you, as well?"
Kimberly Diego, attorney: "I'm certainly devastated by what's happened but we're going to be doing whatever we can to deal with this, and I'm sure we'll have more answers shortly."
KC: Okay. "Do you feel at all that the public that was asked to rally around Rene should have had this information?"
KD: I can't answer that at this point. I don't know.
Lima Marin's primary attorney, who is out of state, says he didn't know about the immigration issue until toda, too, but also said he didn't think it would be an issue. (Those two statements don't seem to square.)
A bill in support of Lima Marin had broad bi-partisan support at the state legislature. We talked to two Democratic sponsors - Rep. Joe Salazar and Sen. Dominick Moreno - who said they did not know Lima Marin was flagged for deportation - but that wouldn't have changed their stance. We haven't heard back from Republican sponsors - Rep. Dave Williams and Sen. Owen Hill.
A well known immigration attorney, Hans Meyer, says if ICE won't free Lima Marin, Governor Hickenlooper should pardon him. The Governor office says he will consider that, acknowledging that Lima Marin's possible deportation blindsided the Governor as well. Hickenlooper's office said he also found out Wednesday, when the Department of Corrections called to let him know.
So, let's look big picture now... After a splashy celebration in the news Tuesday, when Lima-Marin was ordered set free, his case is now in different hands.
Two significant open questions remain, as we still haven't heard from ICE.
Will the Trump administration, which has promised a crackdown on illegal immigration, be willing to grant leniency to a convicted felon? And will Governor Hickenlooper look less kindly on a pardon. considering that he's now being asked to fend of a possible deportation?
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