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Colorado DA seeks review of truck driver's 110-year sentence in deadly crash

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos killed four people when he crashed his big rig into stopped traffic on I-70 in 2019. State law mandated consecutive terms.
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A Colorado district attorney has moved for a hearing to examine whether a 110-year prison sentence for a truck driver who killed four people in a crash in 2019 should stand.

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was sentenced to the lengthy term last week because of state laws that require sentences for certain crimes to be served consecutively, or back to back.

The 100-year-plus sentence was quickly criticized by some and prompted calls for a reduction. More than 4.6 million people have signed a petition asking Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, to grant clemency or commute the sentence.

First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King filed a motion Friday for a hearing to reconsider the sentence under the state’s mandatory minimum law.

“The law also permits the Court to reconsider its sentence in an exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances,” the motion reads.

Aguilera-Mederos, who was hauling lumber in a tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 on April 25, 2019, said his brakes failed before he crashed into traffic that had been stopped for another accident in Lakewood. A fire erupted, engulfing vehicles.

Doyle Harrison, 61; William Bailey, 67; Stanley Politano, 69; and Miguel Lamas Arrellano, 24, were killed.

The chain-reaction crash and fire involved 28 vehicles. The semi was traveling an estimated 84 mph before the crash.

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

Prosecutors argued that Aguilera-Mederos had chances to prevent the crash that he did not take, like failing to take a so-called runaway truck ramp and choosing not to strike a large semi that was stopped on the shoulder.

In sentencing Aguilera-Mederos on Dec. 13, Judge A. Bruce Jones said he was bound by the state law.

“If I had the discretion, if I thought I had the discretion, I would not run those sentences consecutively,” Jones said.

Jones said that he recognized that Aguilera-Mederos did not intend to hurt anyone, “but he made a series of terrible decisions, of reckless decisions,” and deserved prison time.

A police affidavit says Aguilera-Mederos told an investigator that he went to the shoulder and saw that it was blocked by a stopped semi-truck and then swerved back into the traffic lanes.

Aguilera-Mederos testified that he never decided to go toward traffic but that he tried to use a space between the truck and the car next to it on the left, NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver reported during the trial.

At sentencing, Aguilera-Mederos tearfully called the crash a terrible accident. “I’m begging for forgiveness from everyone involved,” he said.

A jury convicted him in October of 27 counts, including four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of assault in the first degree and 10 counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree, some of which were subject to the sentencing rules.

The charges were filed by a former district attorney. King has told KUSA that the facts and the consequences of the case were extraordinary enough to support them.

She told the station in a statement that her office entered into plea negotiations "but Mr. Aguilera-Mederos declined to consider anything other than a traffic ticket." At sentencing they asked for the minimum under the law, the statement said.

The sentencing law requires a report from the Corrections Department before it can be reconsidered. The prosecutor’s office said in a motion Tuesday that may be completed by Thursday, and it asked for an expedited hearing.

Survivors of the crash and families of the victims want the opportunity to be heard about a sentence modification, Tuesday's motion says.

Among those asking Polis, the governor, to act was Kim Kardashian West, who tweeted Tuesday that she hopes he commutes the sentence. To commute a sentence is to reduce it, while clemency also covers pardons.

A spokesperson for Polis said Tuesday: “We just received Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ application, and our legal team is currently reviewing it. Once we reach a decision, we will make an announcement.”