Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday 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, 26, 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 by 100 years, saying in a letter on Thursday 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.
A relative of Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney works in the governor’s office, Polis disclosed, but was not involved in the decision making process. The governor said that the case “highlights the lack of uniformity between sentences.”
“This was a tragic event that affected many Coloradans,” Polis wrote. “Though your actions have caused immense pain, I am encouraged by your personal reflection and the commercial vehicle safety changes that were made in the wake of this tragedy to ensure this type of event never happens again.”
Aguilera-Mederos was driving a truck with a trailer carrying lumber, traveling an estimated 85 mph in an area where the speed limit for commercial vehicles is 45 mph, officials have said. A chain-reaction crash and fire ensued involving 28 vehicles.
Doyle Harrison, 61; William Bailey, 67; Stanley Politano, 69; and Miguel Lamas Arrellano, 24, died in the accident.
A resentencing date had already been scheduled for Jan. 13 as prosecutors sought to reduce Aguilera-Mederos’ prison time.
First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King told reporters Monday that the case of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was “exceptional” and requires “an exceptional process.” Her office was seeking to re-sentence him to 20 to 30 years instead.
“We have and will take the necessary steps for the court — who is the most informed about what happened in this case — to strike the appropriate balance when considering a new sentence,” King said.
During the initial sentencing, Judge A. Bruce Jones said that the law required him to sentence Aguilera-Mederos to consecutive sentences, meaning they are served back-to-back.
“If I had the discretion, if I thought I had the discretion, I would not run those sentences consecutively,” Jones said.
Public backlash to the century-plus sentence resulted in a petition for commutation that received more than five million signatures.