DENVER (Reuters) - Colorado’s governor on Friday pardoned a convicted armed robber released from prison decades early, but who now faces deportation to Cuba, from where he fled as a child during the 1980 Mariel boat lift.
The decision by Governor John Hickenlooper was the latest wrinkle in legal maneuvering surrounding Rene Lima-Marin, 38, who was ordered freed from a state prison this week after a clerical error that cut short his original sentence.
In 2000, Lima-Marin was convicted of aggravated robbery with intent to kill, kidnapping and other charges stemming from a crime spree that he and an accomplice committed in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
The trial judge sentenced him to a total of 98 years in prison, to be served consecutively. However, a clerical error on a sentencing document stated that the prison terms for each of the offenses were to be concurrently, reducing expected time served to 16 years.
According to court documents, Lima-Marin became a model prisoner during his incarceration and was paroled in 2008. He successfully completed his parole, found a steady job, married and became a father.
After six years of freedom, prosecutors noticed the error in the sentencing calculation, and Lima-Marin was sent back to prison.
His lawyers appealed, and this week Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered Lima-Marin’s release, citing his successful rehabilitation.
“No other remedy will result in justice in this case,” Samour ruled.
But after Lima-Marin was freed again this week, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took him into federal custody, citing a deportation order that was issued based on his felony convictions.
Lima-Marin’s immigration lawyer, Hans Meyer, then requested a pardon, which Hickenlooper, a Democrat, granted on Friday.
“Given the extraordinary circumstances of this case and Mr. Lima-Marin’s demonstrated ability to live successfully in the community ... it would be unjust for Mr. Lima-Marin to suffer further consequences for his convictions,” Hickenlooper said.
Meyer cautioned that the pardon does not guarantee federal authorities would not move ahead with deportation proceedings.
“We hope that ICE and the immigration court will also work with us in the interests of justice to reopen Rene’s immigration case, restore his lawful permanent resident status, and reunite this family once and for all,” Meyer said.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said the pardon does not change his agency’s position.
“Rene Michael Lima Marin currently has final orders of removal from a federal immigration judge,” Rusnok said.
Lima-Marin was just 2 when his family joined an estimated 125,000 Cubans fleeing the Caribbean island nation in boats to the United States in a mass exodus permitted by then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Editing by Steve Gorman & Simon Cameron-Moore