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Convict released 90 years early

A group of religious leaders has urged US authorities to pardon a convict who was sent back to prison after being mistakenly released 90 years early and creating a new life.

More than 20 faith leaders urged Colorado governor John Hickenlooper to release Rene Lima-Marin, who was convicted in 2000 of multiple counts of robbery, kidnapping and burglary after he and another man robbed video stores at gunpoint in the town of Aurora.

A judge issued him back-to-back sentences for a total of 98 years in prison, b ut a court clerk mistakenly wrote in Lima-Marin's file that the sentences were to run at the same time, 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 realised the mistake in January this year 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.

The offices of Mr Suthers and Mr Hickenlooper have not yet commented.

The faith group held a prayer vigil outside the governor's mansion where they were joined by Lima-Marin's wife Jasmine and their sons, Justus, seven, and Josiah, four. Ms Lima-Marin said her husband never hid his past, but he tried to use his story to steer 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 at the Kit Carson Correctional Centre 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.

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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