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Colorado man released by ICE after mistakenly being let out of prison 90 years early

Rene Lima-Marin talks to reporters following his release from ICE custody. Lima-Marin claimed that he has changed his ways in the 20 years that have passed since the crimes that landed him in prison. (Image source: KCNC-TV video screenshot)

Rene Lima-Marin, a Cuban immigrant whose legal resident status had been revoked following a criminal conviction, was released Monday by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Colorado.

Before his release, Lima-Marin had been arrested and convicted for armed robbery, sentenced to 98 years in prison, mistakenly released 90 years early, imprisoned again after six years of freedom when a prosecutor discovered the mistake, pardoned by the governor, then held by ICE until now.

What happened?

The saga began in 1998, when Lima-Marin, then 19, was arrested for being involved in the armed robbery of two video stores. He was found guilty on multiple counts of kidnapping, burglary, aggravated robbery, and use of a deadly weapon during commission of a crime.  No one was hurt during the robberies, no shots were fired, and Lima-Marin would later claim that the gun involved was not loaded. His nearly century-long prison sentence began in April 2000.

Due to a paperwork error, he was released early in 2008. During the next six years he got married, got a job, bought a house, and had two sons. One of his lawyers, Kimberly Diego, argued that this made his case unique, “not all people who are rehabilitated behave that way."

In 2014, the mistake was discovered and he was arrested again.

Lima-Marin applied to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, for a commutation of his sentence, and got a full pardon instead. The office of the governor released a statement on May 19, 2017:

The case of Rene Lima-Marin presents an extraordinary set of facts. His family has endured an emotional rollercoaster over the past months and years that is difficult to imagine. Mr. Lima-Marin committed serious crimes when he was much younger, and I believe he was justly convicted and punished for those crimes. To the extent rehabilitation is a goal of imprisonment, Mr. Lima-Marin appears to have achieved it.

However, the governor’s pardon did not undo a 2000 removal order from an immigration judge, so Lima-Marin was taken into ICE custody. He was released after the Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed an appeal from the Department of Homeland Security. This dismissal kept in place an immigration judge’s ruling that Lima-Marin’s case should be terminated.

What's his background?

Lima-Marin came to the United States from Cuba when he was 1 year old during the 1980 Mariel boat lift. Before former President Barack Obama ended the “Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot” policy in January 2017, Cubans who managed to set foot on U.S. soil were given sanctuary and allowed to become legal permanent residents. Lima-Marin had been given legal U.S. residency under this policy, but that was revoked due to his criminal conviction.

Lima-Marin claimed that he has changed his ways in the 20 years that have passed since the crimes that landed him in prison.

“I’m extremely remorseful,” Lima-Marin told local CBS affiliate KCNC-TV. “I feel I’m a different person now, I’m not the same person I was before. I wish I would have never done those things.”

He also said that he held Bible studies in the detention facility “every single day.”

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