CENTENNIAL, Colo. – A convicted Colorado robber who was sent back to prison after being mistakenly released decades before serving his 98-year sentence asked a judge Wednesday to set him free again, arguing it would be unfair for him to remain imprisoned after he started a family, got a steady job and reformed himself.
Rene Lima-Marin, 38, was convicted in 2000 on multiple counts of robbery, kidnapping, and burglary after he and another man robbed two suburban Denver video stores at gunpoint. A judge issued him back-to-back sentences for a total of 98 years.
But a court clerk mistakenly wrote in Lima-Marin’s file that the sentences were to run at the same time. Corrections officials depend on that file to determine how much time an inmate should serve.
Lima-Marin was released on parole in 2008. He held a steady job as a window glazer, got married and had a son before authorities realized the mistake in January 2014, when a team of police officers returned him to prison to complete his sentence.
First Assistant Attorney General James Quinn said the case was an unfortunate mistake but not official misconduct, as Lima-Marin’s attorneys allege.
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. did not immediately decide whether Lima-Marin should be released, saying he needed time to do more legal research. He got the case after Colorado’s highest court refused to free Lima-Marin earlier this year, saying he should ask a lower court to consider his release instead.
Lima-Marin fought back tears as he told the judge he’s experiencing severe emotional pain because of his separation from his wife, her son who he adopted and another son they had together during his freedom.
“I’m supposed to be the head of the household, the person who’s supposed to guide and lead them … and I’ve been taken away from them,” he said. “I was stupid, and a dumb kid who made a mistake.”
But prosecutors said Lima-Marin should not be freed because he knew about the clerk’s error and never notified authorities as he set about rebuilding his life.
Lima-Marin’s co-defendant, Michael Clifton, also would have been mistakenly released early, but the error in his file was uncovered after he filed an appeal in his case. Clifton is serving 98 years in prison.
Lima-Marin filed his own appeal of his sentence in 2000 but, in a rare move, asked that it be dismissed less than a year later. Prosecutors said that showed he learned of the clerical error while in prison and feared further court action on his appeal would call attention to the clerk’s mistake.
Lima-Marin said he asked few questions when his public defender told him he would serve much less than 98 years and urged him to withdraw the appeal.
“All I knew was, my prayers had been answered,” Lima-Marin said of his early release from prison.