Colorado governor to consider clemency for semi driver amid public outcry over life sentence up

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) is considering an application for clemency in the case of a truck driver sentenced to 110 years in prison following his conviction of vehicular homicide stemming from a tragic 2019 accident that resulted in four deaths – a punishment even the families of the victims feel is too harsh.

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 26, of Texas had been driving his semi-trailer down a steep mountain pass along Colorado’s Interstate 70 west of Denver in April of 2019 when his brakes failed, according to Reuters. He then began weaving in and out of traffic to avoid motorists but crashed into stopped traffic, a tragedy Aguilera-Mederos says was unavoidable and unintentional. His trailer, which was hauling lumber, then burst into flames resulting in a 28-vehicle pile-up that killed four people and injured six. Prosecutors argued at trial that the defendant was aware that his brakes were failing and that he drove past at least one emergency runaway truck ramp on the mountainous highway prior to the crash.

Jefferson County District Judge Bruce Jones says he handed down the life sentence with reluctance but pointed out that Colorado law requires the application of mandatory minimum sentences for each count which must be served consecutively.

“If I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” Jones said.

Aguilera-Mederos openly wept as he addressed the court last week and begged the victims’ families for forgiveness.

“I would have preferred God taken me instead of them,” he said as he pleaded with the court for leniency. “I am not a criminal. I never thought about hurting anyone in my entire life.”

The case has garnered national attention, with many calling on the governor to intervene to bring about a lighter sentence as Colorado’s sentencing requirements have fallen under intense scrutiny. A petition for clemency has reached nearly five million signatures thus far, making it one of the most-signed petitions in the organization’s history, according to the site. Civil rights groups and truckers from across the nation have condemned the harsh ruling, with many truck drivers pointing out that any one of them could be in Aguilera-Mederos’ position. Celebrity and jail reform advocate Kim Kardashian has also implored Polis to commute the sentence. 

In a surprising move, First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King, whose office prosecuted Aguilera-Mederos, filed a motion requesting a hearing on the matter.

“As Colorado law required the imposition of the sentence in this case, the law also permits the Court to reconsider its sentence in an exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances,” she said Wednesday in a statement. King said she and her team have been in talks with the victims’ families and six survivors of the crash concerning the possibility of resentencing, saying they want “to be heard in this process.” The group has requested a meeting with the governor to discuss the matter. 

Polis’ office on Tuesday acknowledged to Fox News that it has received a clemency application from lawyers for Aguilera-Mederos. 

“Once we reach a decision, we will make an announcement,” a spokesperson said.