Rogel Aguilera-Mederos crash sentence may be reduced to 20 years
A prosecutor in the case against Rogel Aguilera-Mederos – a truck driver sentenced to 110 years in prison for a fiery 2019 crash that killed four people – has said she will seek a reduced term of 20 to 30 years at a hearing next week. Colorado‘s First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King, whose office led the state’s case against 26-year-old Aguilera-Mederos, will make the request at a hearing on 27 December after filing a motion to reconsider the original sentence. “Based on the facts of this case and input from the victims and their families, my office will be asking the court to consider a sentencing range of 20-30 years when the Court is prepared to address resentencing,” DA King said in a statement Thursday night.
“As the jury found, Mr. Aguilera-Mederos knowingly made multiple active choices that resulted in the death of four people, serious injuries to others, and mass destruction. This sentencing range reflects an appropriate outcome for that conduct, which was not an accident.
“Given that the victims in this case have more than one view of an appropriate outcome, and this trial court heard the evidence presented, we believe that this hearing is the best path to securing justice for everyone involved.” Aguilera-Mederos, 23 years old at the time, was driving an 18-wheeler semi-truck along Interstate 70 in Lakewood, near Denver, Colorado on 25 April 2019, for his job as a driver for a Texas-based trucking firm. He said the truck’s brakes failed as he was driving down hill in rush hour traffic and he lost control of the vehicle.
The truck slammed into dozens of vehicles and caused a 28-vehicle crash. A gas tank ignited, sparking a fiery explosion which left four men dead. The victims were Doyle Harrison, 61, William Bailey, 67, Miguel Angel Lamas Arrellano, 24, and Stanley Politano, 69.
In October, Aguilera-Mederos was found guilty of 27 charges including four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, 10 counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree-extreme indifference, two counts of vehicular assault- reckless, one count of reckless driving, and four counts of careless driving causing death. During his sentencing on 13 December, where he gave an emotional account of the accident and said he wished he could switch places with the victims, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos broke down in tears as he addressed the court at his sentencing hearing on 13 December (YouTube/CBS4)
Judge A Bruce Jones admitted he did not want to send the Cuban immigrant to life in prison but his hands were tied due to Colorado law.
Under state law, charges are served consecutively rather than concurrently and so the 110 years was the minimum sentence possible on the 27 counts. The lengthy sentence fuelled an instant backlash, with truckers, a juror on the case and even Kim Kardashian all publicly calling for the sentence to be lowered or commuted. The prosecutor’s office joined in the pleas for greater leniency with his prison term in a court filing on 17 December.
“As Colorado law required the imposition of the sentence in this case, the law also permits the Court to reconsider its sentence in an exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances,” the motion read. “Now that the Defendant has been sentenced, the People again request the Court set a hearing as soon as practicable upon the receipt of the report.”
Workers are seen cleaning up the aftermath of the deadly crash in Lakewood, Colorado, on 26 April 2019 (AP)
DA King wrote that her office was speaking with the victims’ families to get their input.
“Consistent with the People and the Court’s obligation under the Victim Rights Amendment, the People have begun conferring with the victims in this case to obtain and consider their input in advance of the Court’s hearing and notify them of the date determined by the Court,” it read. “The People intend to file supplemental information prior to the hearing.” This comes after a juror in the case spoke out to condemn the sentence, saying he “cried my eyes out” about it.
The DA’s motion marks a major turnaround from the prosecutor’s office which pursued 42 charges against the driver over the fatal accident. Jurors found him not guilty of 15 counts of criminal attempt to commit assault in the first degree. The DA was also forced to admit its office acted in “poor taste” after the prosecutor in the case Kayla Wildeman boasted about the lengthy conviction on social media.
Ms Wildeman had posted a photo on Facebook of a trophy made from a semi-truck brake pad which had been made to celebrate her win in the case. “Get yourself a trial partner as great as Trevor Moritzky. He turned a brake shoe from a semi-truck into a memento.
What a special gift from truly a special person,” she wrote about her fellow prosecutor. The post drew outrage and has since been deleted. DA King said in a statement that the social media post “was in very poor taste and does not reflect the values” of her office.
She said she took “immediate action” as soon as she became aware of the post and has addressed the issue “internally”. The brake pad used in the trophy was not evidence in the case, she added. Kardashian slammed the prosecutor’s social media post calling it “sick” and “another shocking part of the case” as she joined in the crusade on Tuesday.
Kim Kardashian joined the crusade for a lower sentence this week
The reality star, who has recently taken the “baby bar” exam and has drawn attention to several injustices in the criminal justice system in recent years, posted a series of Instagram stories to her 271 million followers about the case. She slammed mandatory minimum sentences which “take away judicial discretion and need to end” and called on Governor Jared Polis to “do the right thing” amid calls for clemency. “He was not drunk or under the influence; his brakes on the tractor-trailer failed,” she wrote of the driver.
“Another shocking and unfair part of this case is that the judge didn’t want to sentence him to such a lengthy sentence. “However, because of the mandatory minimums in Colorado, his hands were tied. Mandatory minimums take away judicial discretion and need to end.”
Kardashian’s public show of support sees her join swathes of people who have rallied behind Aguilera-Mederos since the sentencing. Truckers have vowed to boycott driving through Colorado and posted videos on social media in solidarity with their fellow driver under the trending hashtag #NoTrucksToColorado. A Change.org petition asking for Governor Polis to grant him clemency or for his sentence to be commuted as time served has reached more than 4.6 million signatures.
The governor’s office confirmed it has received a clemency request and is reviewing the sentence.
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