By Kelly Werthmann
DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. John Hickenlooper is responding to criticism that his pardon of a Colorado convict was illegal and misinformed.
Friday afternoon, the governor pardoned Rene Lima-Marin, 38, who was convicted of several counts of armed robbery and kidnapping in 2000. Lima-Marin was mistakenly released from prison due to a clerical error, spent nearly six years as a free man and used that time to build a family in Aurora, but was incarcerated in 2014 when the state realized its error.
On Tuesday, a judge ordered Lima-Marin be released to his family, calling his continued time behind bars “utterly unjust.”
Yet when Lima-Marin was released by the Department of Corrections, he was quickly picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Lima-Marin was flagged for deportation to Cuba due to his conviction.
“It appears to be designed solely to skirt federal law,” George Brauchler, 18th Judicial District Attorney, told CBS4.
Brauchler, who is running for governor in 2018, said Hickenlooper did not provide advance notice of the pardon or submit an application which is required by state statute. He argued not only did Hickenlooper not reach out to the 18th Judicial District, which prosecuted Lima-Marin, the governor also didn’t consider the victims.
“Did the governor even reach out to the victims to get their input?” Brauchler questioned.
Yet Hickenlooper’s office said in a release Saturday morning, not only did they reach out, they received a lengthy response from the deputy district attorney on Monday.
“It is common to receive responses from attorneys in the office other than the elected district attorney,” the press release said. “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.”
Within the letter Deputy District Attorney Rich Orman sent to the Office of Executive Clemency were interview summaries between a detective and victims of the armed robberies in Aurora. Two of those victims said they were opposed to clemency for Lima-Marin. One said “he would not have a problem if the governor decided to release him,” and a fourth indicated they do not remember the crime due to health reasons.
In the middle of what has become a political dispute over the pardoning are a mother and two little boys riding an emotional roller coaster.
“The hardest part for me is having to tell my boys that, once again, daddy isn’t coming home right now,” said Jasmine Lima-Marin, Rene’s wife. “To go from not having joy for three years to finally getting what we’ve been waiting for and having that torn away again.”
Hickenlooper stated he wants to see Lima-Marin reunited with his wife and children.
“I hope he doesn’t get deported,” Hickenlooper said during a news conference.
Whether or not Lima-Marin is deported to Cuba is still unknown. ICE said an immigration judge has issued a final order of removal. His wife is still holding out hope he’ll be home soon.
“My son has asked me before, ‘What happens if daddy doesn’t come home?’ And I just tell him, ‘I don’t know,’” Jasmine said.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.