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'Like losing my brother all over again': Colorado crash victim's brother on social media reaction, truck driver's clemency

Victims' families asked Gov. Jared Polis not to act before a new sentencing hearing, said the younger brother of Bill Bailey, who died in the crash.

The brother of a man who was killed in the Colorado crash that left four people dead objected Monday to Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to commute a truck driver's 110-year prison sentence to 10 years, saying Polis "put himself in the middle" of the controversy and calling social media reaction to the crash "frustrating."

The truck driver, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was sentenced last month to more than a century behind bars for the fatal crash on Interstate 70 eastbound outside Denver on April 25, 2019. The sentence gained national attention for its severity, and even the district attorney whose office prosecuted the case sought to have it reduced.

Bill Bailey, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61; Stanley Politano, 69; and Miguel Lamas Arrellano, 24, died in the crash.

Prosecutors told crash victims and their families the day Aguilera-Mederos was first sentenced that they would advocate for a reduced sentence of 20 to 30 years, said Bill Bailey’s younger brother, Duane Bailey.

But Polis intervened before a new sentencing hearing, scheduled for Jan. 13, could be held.

"The governor said he did this to restore faith in the judicial system," Bailey said. 'To me that proves he did not have faith in the judicial system. Because if you had faith in the judicial system, he would allow the hearing take place and let the judge set the sentence."

Bailey, who said he didn't agree with the 110-year term, said crash victims and their family members were on a call with Polis the day of his clemency announcement last week.

They also asked Polis the week before that to wait for the Jan. 13 hearing, he said.

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos.KUSA

“We felt like that was the problem,” Bailey said. “That was the biggest complaint, was that he felt the need to put himself in the middle of it while the court system was going on.”

Bailey said that while Polis had the legal right to offer clemency, it wasn't appropriate for him to circumvent the process that was already underway.

Polis’ office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors presented evidence in the nearly two-week-long trial that Aguilera-Mederos was acting recklessly while he was driving a truck with a trailer carrying lumber. He was traveling an estimated 85 mph in an area where the speed limit for commercial vehicles is 45 mph, officials have said.

Aguilera-Mederos then made a series of bad decisions, prosecutors argued, including failing to use a runaway truck ramp on the highway and veering into traffic instead.

A chain-reaction crash and a fire ensued, involving 28 vehicles.

The weeks since Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced Dec. 13 on 27 charges, including four counts of vehicular manslaughter, have been about as hard as the first two days after his brother died, Bailey said.

Inaccurate information about the crash circulated online as many were advocating for the 110-year sentence to be reduced, Bailey said. He mentioned an online petition, which was signed by 5 million people, that said the crash wasn't a criminal act.

"There is massive amounts of evidence that proves not the intent of the crime, but the amount of reckless carelessness by the driver that caused this," Bailey said. "And nobody is saying he did it intentionally, but this was not something that just happened to him."

Workers clear debris from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 on April 26, 2019, in Lakewood, Colo., after a deadly pileup involving a semi-truck hauling lumber.David Zalubowski / AP file

It has been difficult, Bailey said, to see people on social media, including Kim Kardashian, call the fatal crash an accident when criminal acts clearly occurred.

"It's been so frustrating," Bailey said. "I, several times, try to correct information on there. And some listen, some don't. ... It's like losing my brother all over again."

Bailey also blamed the news media for failing to provide more context, saying that outlets had full access to the trial but that so many "missed so much."

He said that he doesn't know how to combat a society that shares online posts without doing further fact-checking but that it has been hard to see his brother's story being lost as Aguilera-Mederos has been made out to be a victim.

Bailey said that he went to every day of the trial, that he listened to the victim impact statements and that even though four people died, thousands of others were affected.

"I don't seek this out. I lost my brother," Bailey said. "I just want people to understand what that's like and that you need to understand the facts of the case before you start talking about it."