Gov. Jared Polis on Monday issued pardons for five people, including Ingrid Encalada Latorre, a Peruvian woman living in the U.S. illegally who has spent years living in sanctuary trying to avoid deportation.
Polis also commuted the sentences of three men, two of whom were convicted of murder and sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole. The third was a financial adviser convicted of fraud and sentenced to 100 years, and Polis was one of his victims.
In Encalada Latorre’s case, Polis issued a full and unconditional pardon on her 2010 conviction for felony impersonation. The move could result in a sea-change for her immigration status.
“Since your conviction, you completed your probation and paid restitution and back taxes,” Polis, a Democrat, wrote in his letter announcing his decision. “You are a dedicated and caring mother to your three children. You are working to educate others on legal ways to obtain employment and the consequences of using false documents.”
Polis noted that as governor he can do nothing to impact her immigration status, but he said that he hoped the conviction would not stand in her way of being able to live legally in the U.S.
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper denied Encalada Latorre’s pardon request in September 2017, citing the impact her crimes had on her victims. She has been living in churches in the Denver area, on and off since December 2016, trying to avoid deportation.
“I’m so happy,” Encalada Latorre said in a brief interview Monday afternoon. “I’m so happy.”
Encalada Latorre most recently took sanctuary in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder in December 2017. Before that, she spent time in the Mountain View Friends Meeting House in Denver and, briefly, Foothill Unitarian Church in Fort Collins.
The pardon could change everything in Encalada Latorre’s immigration case. Under immigration law her case – and the deportation order against her — now can now be automatically reopened and readjudicated.
The others granted pardons by Polis are: Eric Edelstein, John Furniss, Brandon Burke and Jamie Matthews.
Those four all pleaded guilty in drug cases and Polis granted them a full and unconditional pardons.
Matthews more than a decade ago pleaded guilty to attempting to distribute a controlled substance and driving while ability impaired. Furniss pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana in Moffat County when he was 19. A suicide attempt three years before blinded him and left him without a sense of smell, Polis wrote in his pardon letter.
Burke pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in Mesa County almost 20 years ago. Edelstein pleaded guilty in 2002 to possession of a controlled substance in Routt County.
Jensen was 17 years old when he convicted of murder for his role in the 1998 strangulation of Julie Ybanez in Highlands Ranch. Jensen was convicted in the case alongside Ybanez’s son, Nathan.
Jensen was originally sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in the case but then resentenced in May to a 40-year term with the possibility of parole.
Polis’ commutation in the case means Jensen will be released on parole on March 1, 2020.
“As of the date of this letter, you have served over 21 years in prison,” Polis wrote in a letter announcing his commutation decision. “The crimes you were convicted of are serious. Nonetheless, I believe you deserve parole for several reasons.”
Among those, Polis noted that Jensen, now 39, has earned an associate’s degree in arts while in prison and for seven years has been employed as an administrative custodian in the Warden’s office at Limon Correctional Facility. “You have helped other inmates find purpose and positivity and provided them support in their darkest times,” Polis wrote.
Polis also noted that Hickenlooper commuted Nathan Ybanez’s sentence last year, making him parole eligible in December 2020.
Hoover, 68, will also be released on parole on March 1. The former financial adviser is 15 years into a 100-year sentence from 2004 for defrauding victims who invested in his company of millions of dollars. His victims told a judge at sentencing that Hoover had ruined their lives, according to a Denver Business Journal article.
Polis noted in a letter announcing his decision to commute the sentence that Hoover has taken accountability for his actions and worked to help others since being sent to prison. “You have shown that rehabilitation is possible.”
Polis also said he was one of those victimized by Hoover, though he didn’t elaborate. “I myself was a victim of your crimes, and I understand how painful your breach of trust was to so many,” the letter said. “Nevertheless, I believe you deserve parole.”
Finally, Arrington, 52, will be paroled and released from prison on March 1, 2020.
He is 26 years into a life sentence for the murder of Kelly Knudson, 30, in 1989 in Colorado Springs. He was 22 years old when Knudson was shot and killed.
Arrington did not commit the slaying himself. Polis noted that, nevertheless, Arrington’s three co-defendants were sentenced to shorter terms and have all been released from prison.
The actions represent Polis’ first use of his clemency and pardon powers since taking office a year ago.
“Not everyone earns the privilege of a second chance,” Polis wrote to Latorre and the four others who received pardons. “But you have demonstrated that you deserve one. I hope you will make the most of this opportunity and treat your obligations seriously. It will require hard work and dedication to stay on the right path.”