Even the judge in Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos‘s criminal case thought the 110-year prison sentence was too much but said that this was the minimum under the law. Now Colorado Gov. Jared Polis faces calls to commute the truck driver’s sentence for killing four people in a catastrophic highway crash. Critics of the punishment say that Aguilera-Mederos, 26, does not deserve to die in prison because he did not mean for the tragedy to happen. Some people are even planning rallies.
Aguilera-Mederos rammed into stationary traffic on Interstate 70 in Lakewood, Colorado, on April 25, 2019. Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, William Bailey, 67, Doyle Harrison, 61, and Stanley Politano, 69, each died in the crash. Six other people were also injured. The crash involved four semis and 24 cars. One driver even recorded the frightening moment the truck sped by.
Aguilera-Mederos had been hauling lumber when his brakes failed. Prosecutors said he failed to take a runaway ramp, and his actions constituted crimes, including vehicular homicide, first-degree assault, and careless driving causing death.
“This is the result of the defendant doing anything but caring about others that were on the road that day,” Deputy District Attorney Kayla Wildeman, according to The Denver Post.
Defense lawyer James Colgan argued his client was an inexperienced driver overwhelmed by the situation.
“It’s been difficult. Sometimes it feels like being half a person,” Kathleen Harrison said Monday in a victim impact statement about losing her husband Doyle, according to KCNC.
Aguilera-Mederos said he has repeatedly asked God why they and not he died in the crash.
“Why did I survive that accident?” he said.
Judge Bruce Jones voiced mixed feelings, saying he would have given Aguilera-Mederos a shorter sentence if he had discretion under the law. Nonetheless, he maintained the truck driver had still engaged in “a series of terrible decisions, reckless decisions.”
But now a Charge.org petition has more than 4 million signatures as of Sunday for Polis to commute Aguilera-Mederos’s sentence.
Domingo Garcia, national president of The League of United Latin American Citizens, said they sent Polis a letter requesting a pardon or commutation of sentencing, according to KTRK.
“It was an egregious miscarriage of justice,” he said.
Polis’s office did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment.
At least two rallies are planned to protest the 110-year sentence, according to KCNC.
“Please note this is in no way to take anything away from the families of those who lost their lives, this is a tragedy all the way around and we offer our respect and condolences,” wrote a group who have a rally scheduled for Monday at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver at 10 a.m. “Our goal is to bring local and national awareness so that we CAN find someone who will support Rogel in creating change in this sentencing.”
It is called the “‘Crime’ Does NOT Fit the Time March: Support Rogel Aguilera Mederos.”
“We are not intending to undermine the verdict from the jury — Aguilera-Mederos did indeed kill four people and seriously injure others in a tragic and preventable crash,” they wrote Wednesday. “But we do think there is an important distinction that the law, as written, did not allow jurors or the judge to make. The 26-year-old was not drunk. He was not intentionally driving recklessly because he was in a hurry or out for a thrill or running from police. He was not even full of road rage as his semi-truck accelerated down Interstate 70 out of control.”
Colgan said Thursday that they planned to appeal, according to KCNC.