AGENCIES | Colorado Governor Jared Polis reduced the sentence of truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos from 110 years to 10 after more than 5 million people signed a petition calling for leniency.
In his commutation letter signed on Thursday, Polis said the 26-year-old driver would be eligible for parole in five years.
“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 wrote.
“Your highly unusual sentence highlights the lack of uniformity between sentences for similarly situated crimes, which is particularly true when individuals are charged with offenses that require mandatory minimum sentences.
“This case will hopefully spur an important conversation about sentencing laws, but any subsequent changes to the law would not retroactively impact your sentence, which is why I am granting you this limited commutation.”
A judge sentenced Aguilera-Mederos on December 13 to the mandatory minimum set by Colorado law, but prosecutors filed a motion to reconsider the sentence after the public outcry.
A petition on Change.org garnered more than 5 million signatures urging his sentence be lowered, while truck drivers across the country decided to stand in solidarity with Aguilera-Mederos and refused to drive through the state.
Aguilera-Mederos testified he was hauling lumber when the brakes on the semitrailer failed as he was driving down a steep grade on Interstate 70 into Denver on April 25, 2019.
The semitrailer Aguilera-Mederos was driving crashed into 12 cars and three other semitrailers, killing four people and injuring others. A jury in October convicted Aguilera-Mederos of four counts of vehicular homicide and 23 other charges. Since Colorado’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws for “crimes of violence” must be served consecutively, a judge sentenced Aguilera-Mederos to 110 years in prison.
During his sentencing, Aguilera-Mederos struggled to speak through his tears as he addressed the court and apologized to the victims’ families.“I know they have trauma, I know, I feel that,” he said. “But please, don’t be angry with me…I was working hard for a better future for my family. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life.”He added, “I was not out shooting up crowds or a school. I was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I was working and I lost my brake. Truck drivers know this hard moment when you lose your brake. There’s nothing you can do.”
In his commutation letter to Aguilera-Mederos, Polis called the sentence “arbitrary and unjust” and added this was not the fault of the judge who handed down the mandatory sentence.“The families of these victims will never again have the chance to embrace their lost loved ones,” Polis wrote in the letter.
“This was a tragic event that affected many Coloradans. 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.”