handcuffed inmate being escorted

Truck Driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos Sentenced To 110 Years Has Jail Time Reduced To 10 Years

In 2019, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 23, was sentenced to 110 years in prison after causing an accident that killed four people. Prosecutors argued that he had driven recklessly and made poor choices leading to the crash. At the time, Aguilera-Mederos, now 26, stated that the accident was a result of the brakes of his truck failing. 

But at the end of December 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Polis reduced Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence to 10 years and was eligible for parole after five years. He stated the original sentence was disproportionate for a “tragic but unintentional act.”

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Governor Reduces Truck Driver’s Sentence by 100 Years

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos. Image Credit: Lakewood Police Department | Facebook

“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 to Aguilera-Mederos.

This case exemplifies “the lack of uniformity between sentences”. As Polis continued, “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.” [1]

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At the scene of the accident, Aguilera-Mederos drove a truck carrying lumber. Officials have said he was driving about 85 mph where the speed limit for commercial vehicles was 45 mph. Aguilera-Mederos stated that his brakes had failed, causing the truck to rush downhill into stationary traffic, although he tried to avoid other vehicles. Doyle Harrison, 61, William Bailey, 67, Stanley Politano, 69, and Miguel Lamas Arrellano, 24, died during the crash and 28-car pileup.

Prosecutors argued he knew about the brakes, drove recklessly, and ignored the runaway truck ramp made to help vehicles with failing brakes stop. At the trial, Aguilera-Mederos was convicted on 27 counts. Judge Bruce Jones said the law forced him to give the over-century-long sentence.

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Over 5 Million Signatures

This judgment received much backlash, including a petition for commutation or clemency for Aguilera-Mederos. The petition garnered over five million signatures. [2] Additionally, other truck drivers announced online that they would boycott Colorado. This led to Governor Polis reevaluating the case because there was “an urgency to remedy this unjust sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system,” according to spokesperson Conor Cahill.

However, Polis added that the “arbitrary and unjust” sentence was “the result of a law of Colorado passed by the legislature and signed by a prior Governor and is not the fault of the judge who handed down the mandatory sentence required by the law in this case.”

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Meanwhile, Court Judge Jones only learned about the new sentence through a news report.

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The Court respects the authority of the Governor to do so. Based on the timing of the decision, however, it appears this respect is not mutual,” he wrote in his order. This refers to Aguilera-Mederos re-sentencing hearing set for January 13. After Polis’s ruling, the courts canceled it. “The Court again extends its condolences to the families of those who died, to those who were injured, and to all who were traumatized because of the events on I-70 on April 25, 2019.

First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King initially scheduled this hearing after the strong backlash to the original sentence for the young truck driver. King stated that she would look to reduce the sentence to 20 to 30 years while citing the facts of the case and input from the families of the victims. She stated she felt “disappointed in the Governor’s decision to act prematurely.”

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Mixed Reactions

Similarly, Duane Bailey, who lost his brother William Bailey during the accident is similarly disappointed. “I feel the Governor should have let the courts have their say,” he said. “Apparently so does the judge. I would have preferred 20 years, but I would have been much more open to accepting any time given by the judge. Because he has heard all the evidence and knows the case much better than the Governor.” [4]

In the meantime, the governor’s ruling was also a surprise to James Colgan, one of Aguilera-Mederos’ attorneys. But it was a welcome surprise. “Obviously, I think that that was the maximum sentence that Mr. Mederos should have received, 10 years. And Mr. Mederos is of course extraordinarily grateful for the governor’s decision,” Colgan said. “I think that is a far more just reflection of what happened than the 110 years that he received.[5]

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Sources

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  1. “Truck driver’s sentence reduced from 110 years to 10 by Colorado governor in fatal crash.” NBC. Doha Madani. December 31, 2021
  2. “Offer commutation as time served, or grant clemency to Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23.” Change.org.
  3. “Rogel Aguilera-Mederos: Colorado truck driver’s sentence cut by 100 years.BBC.  December 31, 2021 
  4. “Judge criticizes Polis for sentence reduction for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos.The Denver Channel. Blair Miller. January 5, 2022
  5. “Colorado governor reduces sentence of truck driver who was given 110 years in fatal crash”. CNN. Amir Vera and Raja Razek. December 31, 2021
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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