Prison term reduced from 110 to 10 years under public pressure
Following public outcry, the governor of Colorado commuted the sentence of truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, who was involved in a crash that killed four in 2019, from to 110 to 10 years with eligibility for parole in five.
“The length of your 110-year sentence is simply not commensurate with your actions, nor with penalties handed down to others for similar crimes,” Governor Jared Polis wrote in Aguilera-Mederos’ commutation letter on Thursday.
Polis explained his decision by the “urgency to remedy this unjust sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system.”
The 2019 crash that landed the Cuban immigrant behind bars was a “tragic but unintentional act,” the governor said.
Aguilera-Mederos’ truck smashed into stationary traffic and caught fire, killing four people, injuring a dozen more, and creating a major pile-up in Lakewood, Colorado.
The driver said the brakes of his truck failed and that he tried his best to avoid the collision. No drugs or alcohol were reportedly found in his system after the incident. During the trial, Aguilera-Mederos asked the families of the victims for forgiveness several times, saying he wished he had died in the crash instead of them.
The prosecutors, however, said the 26-year-old knew about the problem with the brakes, and that he was driving dangerously and missed at least one runaway truck ramp where he could have stopped.
Aguilera-Mederos was convicted on 27 counts, including vehicular homicide.
According to Colorado law, the judge had to impose mandatory minimum sentences for all of the convictions, and they have to be served consecutively, resulting in the man receiving a 110-year prison sentence.
The judge himself agreed that it was too harsh, saying: “If I had the discretion, it wouldn’t be my sentence.”
The public was also shocked by the verdict, with over 5 million people signing a petition asking for Aguilera-Mederos’ term to be reduced. One of them was reality TV star Kim Kardashian West.
The petition argued that the driver, who fully cooperated with the investigation, was “not a criminal” and that his trucking company should have been held accountable.
Fellow truck drivers also said on social media that they would boycott the state of Colorado over the sentencing.
“We believe justice has finally come to light for Rogel,” James Colgan, Aguilera-Mederos’ lawyer, said in response to the commutation of his client’s term. “We feel grateful.”
Kardashian West also thanked Polis for his decision, writing on Twitter that the trucker’s case was “a clear example of why mandatory minimums don’t work and need to be abolished.”
Thank you @GovofCO for taking action to reduce Mr. Aguilera- Mederos sentence! While his new sentence is ten years, he will now have an opportunity to come home in five years and be with his son and wife.— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 30, 2021
However, not everybody was pleased. District Attorney Alexis King said she was “disappointed in the Governor’s decision to act prematurely.”
A hearing to reconsider Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence had been planned, with King saying she intended to ask the judge for it to be reduced to up to 30 years.