DENVER – A victim of a Colorado convict who returned to prison after being mistakenly released 90 years early says the man got the sentence he deserved even if he reformed his life during nearly six years of freedom.
Shane Ashurst said Monday in his first public comments about the case that he thought he was going to die when Rene Lima-Marin and another man held him face down at gunpoint during a September 1998 video store robbery in Aurora.
"They put a gun to the back of my head and said, 'This is where you're going to die,'" said Ashurst, who worked at the store and has since moved to Memphis, Tennessee.
"Even though this happened a long time ago, it's not something you ever forget. You're going to live with it the rest of your life, and he should live with it the rest of his life," said Ashurst, who said he suffers flashbacks of the incident.
Lima-Marin was convicted in 2000 on multiple counts of robbery, kidnapping and burglary charges. A judge issued him to 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 got a job, got married and had a son before authorities realized the mistake in January and sent him back to prison.
Lima-Marin's case came as other clerical errors allowed criminals to evade prison time. A Colorado inmate mistakenly released four years early killed the state's corrections chief at his front door last year.
Lima-Marin said he wants to appeal on the ground that he has changed from the foolish 20-year-old he was at the time of the robbery into a dedicated father and regular churchgoer.
In a phone interview from prison Monday in his first public remarks about his case, Lima-Marin said he asked few questions when his public defender told him in 2001 that he would be serving his sentences concurrently. His attorney told him to withdraw an appeal he had filed in the case, he said.
"I'm in prison, I think I have 98 years, and this woman tells me I have 16," he said of his reaction at the time. "I'm not really concerned with anything other than the fact that I now have 16 years, and I am in amazement."
Lima-Marin, now 35, said he became active in church after his release. He married his former girlfriend and helped raise her son, who is 7. They had a second son, now 4. His wife, Jasmine Lima-Marin, said both she and her husband believed he had paid his debt to society.
"By putting me back in prison, you are now sentencing three people who have nothing to do with this," Rene Lima-Marin said of his wife and children.
His family has posted an online petition on change.org that includes more than 500 signatures urging his release.
Colorado Public Defender Doug Wilson and other officials in his office did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Lima-Marin's statements.
But prosecutors have said that Lima-Marin was fully aware of the clerical error and never notified authorities as he set about building his life.
Rich Orman, Arapahoe County senior deputy district attorney, has said Lima-Marin withdrew an early appeal of his sentence and never sought a sentence reduction because he wanted the clerk's error to go unnoticed.
"I find his assertion that he didn't know about the mistake and didn't do whatever he could to make sure no one else found out about it to be extremely dubious, if not downright impossible," Orman said.
Ashurst, the robbery victim, says he has no sympathy for Lima-Marin.
"I don't feel bad for him. You pay for your mistake," he said. "I just feel sorry for the wife and kids if they did not know about it."