Colorado Trucker’s Prison Sentence Is Reduced by 100 Years
Gov. Jared Polis said the initial prison sentence given to the driver, Rogel L. Aguilera-Mederos, was “unjust” and “disproportionate” compared with sentences for violent crimes.,
Gov. Jared Polis said the initial prison sentence given to the driver, Rogel L. Aguilera-Mederos, was “unjust” and “disproportionate” compared with sentences for violent crimes.
The 110-year prison sentence given to the driver of a truck involved in a 2019 crash that killed four people was reduced to 10 years by the governor of Colorado on Thursday.
Gov. Jared Polis called the original sentence “unjust” and “disproportionate compared with many other inmates.”
“Your highly unusual sentence highlights the lack of uniformity between sentences for similarly situated crimes,” Mr. Polis wrote in a letter to the driver, Rogel L. Aguilera-Mederos. He added, “This case will hopefully spur an important conversation about sentencing laws” in the future.
Mr. Aguilera-Mederos will be eligible for parole on Dec. 30, 2026, according to the governor’s letter.
On April 25, 2019, Mr. Aguilera-Mederos was driving a truck on Interstate 70 in Lakewood, Colo., near Denver, when it crashed into several cars, killing four people.
Mr. Aguilera-Mederos has said malfunctioning brakes were the primary cause of the crash. The company he was driving for, identified in local news reports as Castellano 03 Trucking L.L.C. in Houston, did not immediately reply to messages left at phone numbers associated with the company.
In October, a jury found Mr. Aguilera-Mederos guilty on 27 counts, including vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. On Dec. 13, a district court judge, A. Bruce Jones, sentenced Mr. Aguilera-Mederos, then 26, to more than a century in prison, citing a Colorado state law that required sentences for each count to be served consecutively, rather than concurrently.
The lengthy sentence drew immediate scrutiny, from people including the judge, who, Reuters reported, said, “If I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence.”
A petition calling for Mr. Aguilera-Mederos’s sentence to be reduced quickly garnered millions of signatures.
As the petition gained traction, Gage Evans, the wife of William Bailey, who died in the crash, said in an interview that Mr. Aguilera-Mederos “should spend some time in prison and think about his actions.”
“We are truly the victims,” she said, adding that she believed that Mr. Aguilera-Mederos had made “bad decisions all along the way that day.”
Prosecutors had initially said Mr. Aguilera-Mederos was responsible for the deaths because of several decisions he made while behind the wheel, including not steering the truck, which was hauling lumber, onto a runaway-truck ramp along the highway.
Before formally seeking a commutation — which would reduce the prison sentence but not undo the conviction — a lawyer for Mr. Aguilera-Mederos, James Colgan, said that “we’re not saying he’s innocent and didn’t make mistakes” but that “the punishment has to fit the crime, and this punishment does not fit the crime.”
The move came as Mr. Polis pardoned more than 1,300 people who had been convicted of possessing two ounces or less of marijuana. He commuted the sentence of two other people.
“You have wondered why your life was spared when other lives were taken,” the governor wrote to Mr. Aguilera-Mederos. “You will struggle with this burden of this event for the rest of your life,” and “you will serve your just sentence.”
Alyssa Lukpat contributed reporting.