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Colorado DA seeks to reduce trucker’s 110-year sentence

Dec. 27, 2021
During a Dec. 27 status hearing in Colorado's First Judicial District Court, a judge set Jan. 13 as the date for a resentencing hearing for truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos.

A Colorado district attorney has asked a court there to reduce the 110-year prison sentence of truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos to 20 to 30 years. Aguilera-Mederos was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges in connection with a deadly crash in April 2019.

A status hearing was held Monday in First Judicial District Court, and the judge set Jan. 13 as the date for a resentencing hearing, ABC 7 in Denver reported.

The status hearing came amid a national public outcry on Aguilera-Mederos' behalf and District Attorney Alexis King’s request to reconsider the original prison sentence passed down earlier this month.

“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,” King said in a Dec. 23 statement. “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 was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges by a Jefferson County, Colorado, jury in October in connection with a deadly crash in April 2019 on Interstate 70 west of Denver. He was 23 years old at the time of the crash.

According to The Associated Press, Aguilera-Mederos’ truck was carrying lumber and going at least 85 mph on a part of Interstate 70 where commercial vehicles are limited to 45 mph because of a steep descent from the Rocky Mountain foothills. The initial impact caused a 28-vehicle chain-reaction wreck that ruptured gas tanks, causing flames that consumed several vehicles and melted parts of the highway, AP reported. Four were killed in the crash and six were injured.

During his trial, Aguilera-Mederos testified that the brakes on his tractor-trailer failed before he crashed into vehicles that had slowed because of another wreck in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. Prosecutors argued Aguilera-Mederos could have used one of several runaway ramps designed to stop trucks and other vehicles that have their brakes fail.

On Dec. 13, Colorado District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones sentenced Aguilera-Mederos to 110 years in prison, to be served consecutively. That sentence sparked immediate public outcry.

Supporters of Aguilera-Mederos maintain the sentence is unjust, and truck drivers around the country have taken up his cause, using hashtags like #NoTrucksToColorado and #NoTrucksColorado, The Colorado Sun reported.

Nearly 5 million people have signed a petition asking for Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence to be commuted or reduced. According to a Change.org petition, Aguilera-Mederos had no criminal history and nothing on his driving record. Petitioners, instead, point the blame at the trucking company Aguilera-Mederos was driving for at the time of the crash.

William “Lewie” Pugh, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), commented via Land Line Magazine that Aguilera-Mederos is a victim of a “broken system” and is “paying the price for so much of what is wrong in the industry.”

“Safety starts with a well-trained, well-rested, well-compensated driver behind the wheel that is treated like a professional—instead of just a replaceable commodity,” Pugh wrote.

“We need real investment in training—not just pass a test and be turned loose,” he added. “We need realistic training hours in all types of weather and driving terrain and conditions. The training must be done by experienced veterans of the road, awake and alert, sitting beside the trainee.”

Pugh also pointed out that Aguilera-Mederos is a Cuban-American from Texas, highlighting the odds against him.

“If he was even trained in Texas, there are no mountains there like the one in Colorado he was on,” Pugh noted. “Do we even know if he realized what a runaway ramp was? Do we know if he had the ability to completely read and understand the road signs in English? If I was to guess from my experience the answer to a lot of this would be no. Did his carrier know his ability or even care? I would guess again they didn’t care. They just wanted to get the load delivered because they knew if something happened the driver would be left to take the fall.”

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