Clergy seek pardon of Colorado man sent back to prison after being freed 90 years early

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DENVER — A group of religious leaders on Tuesday asked Gov. John Hickenlooper to pardon a Colorado convict who was sent back to prison after being mistakenly released 90 years early and creating a new life.

The group of more than 20 faith leaders urged the release of Rene Lima-Marin, who was convicted in 2000 of multiple counts of robbery, kidnapping and burglary after he and another man robbed Aurora video stores at gunpoint when he was 20. A judge issued him back-to-back sentences for a total of 98 years in prison.

But a court clerk mistakenly wrote in Lima-Marin's file that the sentences were to run at the same time. Corrections officials rely on that file to determine how much time an inmate should serve, and Lima-Marin was released on parole in 2008.

Now 35, he held a job, married his former girlfriend, helped her raise her son and had a son of his own before authorities realized the mistake in January and sent him back to prison.

If Lima-Marin is not released, "his children will lose a hardworking father, and his community will lose an influential positive role model," the group wrote in the letter, which was also sent to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, whose office is handling an appeal Lima-Marin filed in August. A spokeswoman for Suthers declined to comment, and Hickenlooper's spokeswoman did not return a call.

The group held a prayer vigil outside the governor's mansion, where they were joined by Lima-Marin's wife, Jasmine, and their sons, Justus, 7, and Josiah, 4. Jasmine Lima-Marin said her husband never hid his past, but he tried to use his story to steer other young men down a different path.

"I now wake up every morning praying that our boys do not ask me when Daddy is coming home," she said, fighting tears. "My family is no longer complete. I miss my best friend, my soul mate."

In an interview with The Associated Press at the Kit Carson Correctional Center in June, Lima-Marin said his life outside prison is proof that he has changed.

But prosecutors have said he was fully aware of the error as he set about building his life. Lima-Marin's co-defendant, Michael Clifton, also would have been released early, but the error in his file was uncovered when he filed an unsuccessful appeal in his case.

The clergy called the 98-year sentence "unduly long" and said it was the result of Colorado's harsh sentencing laws.

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