Colorado governor commutes trucker’s 110-year sentence

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Colorado governor commutes trucker’s 110-year sentence
Workers clear debris from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 on April 26, 2019, in Lakewood, Colo., following a deadly pileup involving a semi-truck hauling lumber. A truck driver who was convicted of causing the fiery pileup that killed four people and injured six others on Interstate 70 west of Denver was sentenced Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, to 110 years in prison. Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, shown inset, was convicted in October of vehicular homicide and other charges stemming from the April 2019 crash. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has commuted the prison term of a truck driver who was sentenced to 110 years following a fatal 2019 accident, reducing the sentence to 10 years.

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos killed four people on April 25, 2019, after he said his brakes failed the downhill grade on I-70 eastbound outside of Denver. Prosecutors argued that Aguilera-Mederos acted recklessly and made a series of poor decisions before the deadly wreck.

Polis reduced Aguilera-Mederos’ sentencing on Thursday to 10 years, saying in a letter that the life sentence was inappropriate for a “tragic but unintentional act.”

“While you are not blameless, your sentence is disproportionate compared with many other inmates in our criminal justice system who committed intentional, premeditated, or violent crimes,” Polis said in a letter addressed to Aguilera-Mederos.

Judge Bruce Jones had scheduled a hearing for Jan. 13 to reconsider Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence following widespread outrage over the severity of his punishment and an unusual request by prosecutors to revisit the matter.

During a virtual hearing to discuss the request, one of Aguilera-Mederos’ lawyers, James Colgan, said the defense needed some time to do research to see if there were any similar cases that could help guide its approach.

Jones said he wanted to learn more about whether the law that allowed him to reconsider the sentence gave him discretion to set whatever sentence he wanted.

He said victims would be able to speak at the in-person hearing about whether Aguilera-Mederos should be resentenced. But he noted he did not want them to go through that stress unless they wished to.

“I am a captive audience if they want to speak to me,” he said.


Around 5 million people signed an online petition seeking clemency for Aguilera-Mederos. In addition to the prosecution’s request to lower the sentence, Aguilera-Mederos has requested clemency from Polis.

Last week, District Attorney Alexis King said in a statement she would seek a term of 20 to 30 years in the 2019 wreck on Interstate 70 west of Denver. She said that sentencing range reflects an “appropriate outcome” for Aguilera-Mederos’ conduct, noting that the crash was not an accident.

After a Monday hearing, King said her office made the reconsideration request to give the court the ability to impose a sentence not bound by the state’s mandatory sentencing laws. She said the judge, knowing the case well, was in the best position to decide a new sentence and urged people to be patient as the court process plays out.

Jones imposed the 110-year sentence against Aguilera-Mederos on Dec. 13 after finding it was the mandatory minimum term set forth under state law.

“I will state that if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” the judge said during the hearing.

Leonard Martinez, another lawyer for Aguilera-Mederos, has said the district attorney’s new requested sentencing range is not consistent with similar cases in Colorado and the United States.

Colorado law allows for sentences for crimes deemed violent to be modified in cases with “unusual and extenuating circumstances,” but those sentences cannot take effect until 119 days after a person enters prison. King and defense lawyers believe Jones can impose a new, reduced sentence before that and have it take effect later.

Aguilera-Mederos testified that he was hauling lumber when the brakes on his semitrailer failed as he was descending a steep grade of Interstate 70 in the Rocky Mountain foothills on April 25, 2019. His truck plowed into vehicles that had slowed because of another wreck, setting off a chain-reaction wreck and a fireball that consumed vehicles and melted parts of the highway.

He wept as he apologized to the victims’ families at his Dec. 13 sentencing.

“When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me,” he said. “I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life.

Prosecutors argued he should have used a runaway ramp designed for such situations. Aguilera-Mederos, for his part, said he was struggling to avoid traffic and trying to shift to slow down.

The crash killed 24-year-old Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 67-year-old William Bailey, 61-year-old Doyle Harrison and 69-year-old Stanley Politano. Relatives of victims supported at least some prison time at his sentencing hearing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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I disagree with the govenors decision. 10 years 4 lives 6 injured thousands in damages. My opinion the decision is more political than justice for the victims the injured. Says to anyone who makes bad decisions causing lost of life and injuries crying and whining get sympathy from the public and can mock the American Justice system.

Surelly, your ignorance on trucking and its industry, law included are far worse them most Americans, if is proved that brakes did, indeed failed, its not the drivers responsibility but the company maintenance, department, you may be one of those who drive like a dum dum, provoking every truck driver around, swinging in front of a truck and slowing down, just for stupidity, learn about truck driving and law before talking baloney

Being a trucker on this USA, is indeed getting worst by the day, with ” four whellers disrespecting, provoking and calling truck companies on they drivers, as if the trucker are reckless, ive seem companies fire drivers, because a fone call from a person who was playing games on the road pushing a already stressed, tired for.trying to beat the EDL time driver,
People fail to realize that everyone needs us, truckers, before they even born we where there bringing everything ones needed, to after one dies, and every day in between, we are there, getting disrespected, humiliated, false acused, lied of, under paid, away from our families, 365 days a year.. for you, yes we sacrifice for a bunch of ignorant people, whos hypocrisy wont allow them to see the importance of a truck and trucker, i blame the goverment, for not stand by us, i blame the trucking companies for hather have they truck without driver tham believe on its mais revenue, trucker, i blame people who play games on the road around trucks, thinking they cars wont fail and would support an 80 tons truck impact, i blame the FMCSA and DOT for over regulations and total ignorance on this industry, i blame the so called truckers associations for its lies and associate with mega carriers, sold out to corporations in order to do nothing besides taking our hard earnings. I blame drivers, who fail to assossiate and unite in order to get at least some respect.. last but not.least i blame driving schools, commercial or not, for fail to train its students on the right track.. this why hundreds of truckers are quitting and giveaway they CDLs, me included

So much ignorance by people that aren’t truckers. His brakes failed because he burned them up. By law u have to do a pre trip. 10 years is too little 110 years is too much. He should do 40 years, 10 years per life he stole.

I completely disagree with the prosecutor you are a F*****G IDIOT! The reason I say this is I’m a truck driver for 18 years. I’ve been in the situation just like that, fortunately I was able to slow my truck down but I wasn’t going down the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. And for someone that has absolutely no clue, and has no idea what it’s like to operate an 80,000 pound vehicle under a stressful situation and unfortunate, you don’t know how you would react I think the young man was inexperienced and I believe he may have panicked “as any normal human being would”. It is tragic that people had to lose their life and those lives can never be replaced, but there is no sense in taking that young drivers life away from him for a mechanical failure, when we have murders, gangbangers, and drug dealers that can get locked up 100 times and never get a sentence like that! I think that the prosecutor what is a piece of s**t that was trying to make an example of a a young man that had a very tragic and sad event that the young driver had absolutely no control over! He has never been locked up, he never has been convicted of any crime. He is just trying to make his way in life and it’s people like you in America and people like that prosecutor and that judge that makes me ashamed and even more pissed off and paranoid with our legal system and about how our government Is getting rich from incarcerating people that have no business being in prison. And their decisions are not for the good of society, or for the good of the victims, nor the defendant! It’s for their own selfish needs.that. A 24 year old decent young man that had a mechanical failure got sentenced to 110 years but the man that makes $5 million that has been molesting little boys, and little girls will only get six months probation! Is that justice? Is that what our country has come to? Humanity, compassion, forgiveness, and love is what makes the human race so unique and this new generation has completely Forgotten how to be decent people I’m ashamed of our justice system
And you should be ashamed of yourself for even making a comment like that, shame on you.

Was it a automatic or Manuel transmission? Which brakes malfunctioned? What part of the brake system failed?
What grade of hill or mountain was he decending? All these are key factors did they have experts determine any of these factors safety rating of company ECT ect???? You have to have the facts to evaluate! Yes I have been o/op for 31yrs and I have been 2 tight spots with brakes on was on the grapevine on west coast and you guys are right the driving schools are not adiquite my x taught me we ran team for about 5 yrs and everyday was a learning experience and still is! The drivers that drive too fast no stopping distance never look in their mirrors fly thru rest areas and fuel islands that think they know it all are the most dangerous on the road! Back in the day when everybody listened on the CB you knew everything going on in a 50 mile radius and drivers would work together on the Hwy the night my brakes failed on cabbage the Pete t
In front of me was ready for me to ride his trailer to slow me down but the brakes set themselves and stopped me on a grade that was so steep you could not stand up! The CB was a safety tool along with directions all we had was a map no phone you just have to be on your game not on a paid vacation. Plus clean up wear decent clothes jeans boots don’t look like you just rolled out of bed and your clothes look slept in!! Have dome class and you will be respected more so And not everybody can be first!!!

Good for him he didn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison. He made a mistake and should never be allowed to drive again but rest of his life in prison is insane

I’m glad the governor revisited his sentence. He was young and not experienced trying to do a job. A job that’s difficult for the experienced in certain situations. Society wouldn’t have been as hard on a young pilot. An Uber driver. Driving an eighteen wheeler is difficult in this present day environment. Don’t criminalize.