Updated with comments from the governor’s office.
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, a candidate for governor, is questioning whether Gov. John Hickenlooper followed state law in pardoning Rene Lima-Marin. The governor pardoned the recently freed man today in an effort to protect him from immigration authorities.
Brauchler’s office claims that Hickenlooper failed to notify Brauchler and victims of the crimes before granting the pardon. Brauchler is DA for the 18th Judicial District, where Lima-Marin was convicted of armed robbery in 2000 at age 19.
Hickenlooper’s office contests Brauchler’s claim.
“The victims likely will find out like we did — on social media or news outlets,” a statement from Brauchler read.
The DA also questioned whether Lima-Marin was eligible for a pardon yet. Typically, an offender who requests a pardon must be seven years past the end of his sentence.
Lima-Marin was just released — for the second time — from state prison this week. He was detained by ICE immediately afterward. His immigration attorney, Hans Meyer, said there is very little time to stop Lima-Marin’s potential deportation to Cuba, where he lived his first two years.
The governor’s pardon is a significant boost for Lima-Marin, and Brauchler challenged it in a press release from his DA office hours within hours.
“It does not appear the governor followed Colorado law. In fact, it appears this pardon is in violation of Colorado law and may be an invalid pardon,”
Hickenlooper’s office, however, said that it had notified and sought comment from both both Brauchler and the victims days beforehand regarding the pardon.
Brauchler’s office sent a “lengthy response” on May 15, which included “input from the victims, which the Governor carefully considered,” according to an email from Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Hickenlooper. That letter was sent in response to the clemency request from the legislature, before the immigration implications of Lima-Marin’s convictions were known, but presumably the feedback would have been similar for a pardon.
The governor’s office also notes that he “may waive the requirement that an applicant wait for certain periods of time before apply for a pardon.
“While we typically ask applicants to wait seven years after completing their sentence before applying for a pardon, we made an exception in this case because of the gross injustice Chief Judge Samour and others identified,” Montgomery wrote.
Lima-Marin, 38, was sentenced to 98 years in 2000 but released early in 2008 due to a clerical error. He turned his life around, got a job, married and was raising two children with his wife, Jasmine, when the error was discovered. He was sent back to prison in 2014. This week, he was freed again by a judge, with support from both houses of the state legislature.
Lima-Marin left state custody almost directly into the hands of ICE officers. As he was born in Cuba and taken to the U.S. at age 2, he can be deported for the conviction that put him in prison in the first place, even though he was a legal permanent resident. There was a pending removal order in his case going all the way back to 2000.
Hickenlooper pardoned Lima-Marin for the crime, hoping to bolster his immigration case.
In a letter that Brauchler’s office supplied in response to the legislature’s clemency request, two victims in Lima-Marin’s armed robbery convictions said they didn’t want him released. Another was ambivalent.
All three victims described serious impacts from the armed robberies that remain with them to this day — nightmares, inability to trust other people, inability to work at night. One person left the state because he couldn’t feel safe here. Another felt the robbery was a major factor in his divorce.
Brauchler does, however, note that he does not want Lima-Marin to be deported.
Erica Meltzer contributed to this report.