Truck driver’s sentence lowered from 110 years to 10 years by Colorado governor in a fatal crash

The truck driver’s sentence was reduced by Colorado governor Jared Polis to 10 years from 110 years. The case started a conversation about the ‘mandatory minimum’ in Colorado’s judicial system.

Colorado governor Jared Polis has commuted the 110-year sentence of the trucker Rogel Aguillera – Mederos to 10 years along with eligibility for parole in five.

Truck driver's sentence
Truck driver’s sentence

“I am writing to inform you that I am granting your application for a commutation,” Polis wrote. “After learning about the highly atypical and unjust sentence in your case, I am commuting your sentence to 10 years and granting you parole eligibility on December 30, 2026.”

Inflation Sticking Around in 2022

Polis hoped that the case would bring more attention to the hollowness of mandatory minimums and encouraged the man to seek “ restorative justice opportunities” for the families and communities he impacted.

“The length of your 110-year sentence is simply not commensurate with your actions, nor with penalties handed down to others for similar crimes,” Polis said in his letter. “There is an urgency to remedy this unjust sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system, and consequently I have chosen to commute your sentence now.

Attorney James Colgan, who represented Mederos during the trial, said in a statement to ABC News: “Justice was served!!! This commutation is far more reflective of the crime than 110 years. This type of justice is exactly why I went to law school and why I continue to practice law! Mr. Mederos will be forever grateful for the millions of people that supported him.”

The Unfortunate Accident

On April 25th, 2019 Maderos truck caused a fiery pileup involving nearly 40 cars and a hundred witnesses. Killed that day were Miguel Angel Lames Arellano (24), William Bill Bailey (67), Doyle Harrison (61), and Stanley Politano (69). The police say that Madero was going twice the speed limit just before the crash. He claimed his brakes failed to cause him to lose control with the semi-trailer and slam into dozens of stopped cars.

Prosecutors argued Maderos made multiple poor decisions, noting that he could have steered his truck onto a runaway ramp, but he didn’t. Prosecutors asked inputs from survivors and loved ones on whether they think Madero’s sentence should be reduced. Many of the survivors and victims were not ready to forgive him and were disturbed by the social media campaigns.

During sentencing, Maderos expressed his deep regret about the incident. He said that he wished he had died instead of the other victims. He told CBS Denver that his life is very sad because of the four people who died unfortunately because of him.

In October Rogel Aguillera was found guilty on 27 counts including vehicular homicide and vehicular assault., after a semi-truck ploughed into several cars on Interstate 70, just outside Denver in left four people dead and many more injured. Earlier this month a district judge handed down a 110-year sentence for Mederos saying Colorado’s mandatory minimum forced his hand because certain crimes require sentences to be served consecutively rather than concurrently.

He was found guilty by a Jefferson County jury of 27 counts — the most serious was first-degree assault, a class three felony.

The number of the charges, mandatory minimum laws, and a classification that mandates some sentences be served consecutively resulted in the lengthy sentence.

Fight for Justice begins

Lots of questions were raised about the judge’s discretion and the concept of mandatory minimums. Nearly five million people signed an online petition asking for the controversial sentence to be reduced. But for some of the crash survivors and the loved ones of those who died there’s been a sense of closure, including for Gage Evans whose husband Bill was killed.

In an expedited hearing, the district attorney asked for the sentence to be reconsidered to only 20 to 30 years in prison. She added that it was an exceptional case and requires an exceptional process. The League of United Latin American Citizens joined the fight. They argue that there was a miscarriage of justice and weaponization of a prosecutor’s office. They added that the man was just a simple truck driver and had no prior criminal records. Also, he wasn’t on alcohol or drugs when he was diving. The brakes failed and that was an unintentional accident. They believed that as he was a Latino immigrant, he was discriminated against.

Kim Kardashian tweeted that the Colorado law needs to change. After the verdict, she said that she was grateful to Governor Polis for the empathy and leadership he displayed. She added that as his sentence is now 10 years, he will get an opportunity to come home in 5 years and be with his son and wife.

The complicated case gained national attention and launched a conversation about mandatory minimum sentencing and is indeed a watershed moment in the history of the judiciary.

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