AURORA, Colo. -- An Aurora man who turned his life around after a court error set him free is back behind bars for 90 years. It’s inside the Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington where he spoke to us about why he deserves a second chance.
Rene Lima-Marin was 19 years old when he robbed two video stores at gunpoint one day 15 years ago.
He served 10 years of what he thought was a 16-year sentence before a judge sent him back to prison in January.
"It's that every day, happy, white-picket-fence type of life," says Lima-Marin, about the world he created with a wife and two kids after leaving prison nearly six years ago.
It’s a life he never imagined could be his as a convicted felon.
"What makes this that much harder, is the fact I constantly have them right here,” as he points to his head.
That life vanished overnight January 7, when a judge in the 18th Judicial District sent him back to prison to finish a 98-year sentence.
"98 years for what? You know, for what?" he says with disbelief.
He says his appeals lawyer told him 13 years earlier that his sentence was just 16 years.
"She was like, in this appeals process, the best thing that could have possibly happened to you was that everything would be ran concurrent and you would have 16 years. And that’s what you have right now. He says she told him, in her advice, to withdraw his appeal for a reduced sentence.
But her information was wrong—as was the court file sent to the Department of Corrections stating his sentences should run all at once, instead of back-to-back.
"I would have never had a wife. I would have never had children. I would have never bought a house. I would have never done any of those things. But I did those because you let me out. And now they are being punished for something they had absolutely nothing to do with," he says about his family.
It’s a punishment he says is excessive.
"People have raped, molested kids, taken lives and 15, 20, 25 years. And I made a mistake and tried to steal some money and I am given my entire life in prison? It just doesn't make sense," he says.
He also says the rifle he used wasn’t loaded and no one was hurt.
His prior criminal history was thefts committed as a juvenile.
Yet, his case was aggressively prosecuted under a program call COP (chronic offender program) that’s no longer in use. It consisted of a board of police, citizens and district attorneys who approved cases in which there were multiple acts of criminal behavior or extensive criminal history.
His eight convictions led to a 98-year sentence. The judge ordered each sentence to run consecutive to each other.
Three counts of armed robbery got him 10 years each for a total of 30 years. It’s a crime that normally carries a term of just four to 16 years.
The convictions also included three counts of kidnapping, each carrying 16 years.
Rich Orman, Senior Deputy DA with the 18th Judicial District says Lima-Marin was charged with kidnapping because he moved three people from the front of the store to the back.
He also got 10 years each for two counts of burglary.
The Colorado State Public Defender says had Lima-Marin’s case been prosecuted today, he’d likely get a more reasonable offer of between 20 to 30 years.
Lima-Marin and his family say the punishment is wrong.
"I did something wrong. I acknowledge the fact I did something wrong. I take responsibility for the fact I did something wrong. But I also believe I completed the punishment, the just punishment for the crime," he says.
It’s a punishment he says breaks up his family.
"And not only for me, because I know that seems selfish, because it hurts me. But it hurts them as well," he says with tears in his eyes.
Lima-Marin served 10 years with exemplary behavior—not written up even once. And when he got out, he pledged he’d never do anything to go back.
"That's all I want people to see, is that I'm not that guy. I don't deserve 98 years. I deserve the time that I did," he says.
He just wants justice.
And he hopes the same justice system that put him in here, lets him out.
He believes it will happen.
"I have complete 100 percent faith that God is going to bring me out of this. It's just a matter of the when," he says.
Lima-Marin won’t even be eligible for parole until the year 2054—40 years from now—when he’s 75.
His family has set up an online petition to help generate support for his immediate release.
They’re also accepting any donations to help pay for a lawyer that has accepted the case.