The governor of Colorado said Tuesday he is reviewing a clemency application for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos who was sentenced to 110 years in prison after the breaks on his semi-truck failed resulting in the death of four people.
The family of Aguilera-Mederos and supporters asked for Governor Jared Polis to “take immediate action” and either reduce the length of his sentence or grant him clemency.
Polis said he had received the clemency application and is reviewing it.
“This fight is not just for him but for all,” said Aguilera-Mederos’ defense lawyer Leonard Martinez during a rally at the state capital.
Aguilera-Mederos, 26, testified he was hauling lumber in his semitrailer on April 25, 2019, when his breaks failed heading down a steep decline. Other vehicles had stopped for a different car wreck and he crashed into them, killing four people.
Aguilera-Mederos was charged with 27 counts of vehicular assault, assault, reckless driving, plus additional charges. He was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
District Court Judge Bruce Jones said due to the mandatory-minimum sentencing laws he had no choice but to hand down the lengthy sentence.
“I will state that if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” Jones said.
Martinez said the injustice of such long sentences needs to be addressed, both by reforming sentencing laws but also looking at the actions of prosecutors and judges.
Supporters of Aguilera-Mederos say the sentence is deeply unjust and truck drivers around the country have taken up his cause, using hashtags like #NoTrucksToColorado and #NoTrucksColorado.
His family is asking to reduce the sentence as he has no criminal record. He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and fully cooperated with investigators, supporters said in a statement. More than 4.5 million people have signed an online petition asking for a commutation.
Prosecutors asked for a reconsideration of the sentence after the outcry, but also say the driver declined plea deal negotiations and the convictions recognize harm caused to crash victims. On Tuesday, District Attorney Alexis King filed a motion asking the judge to consider the issue quickly.
Aguilera-Mederos’ trial attorney, James Colgan, said Wednesday the district attorney, who inherited the case from her predecessor, could have dropped some of the charges against him if she wanted a different sentence to be reached, given the state’s laws. He said prosecutors can file extra charges against a defendant in hopes of convincing them to accept a plea bargain.
Colgan said he is open to having either the governor or the judge decide a new, fair sentence. He declined to say what that might be.
“When there’s tragedy on both sides, there’s got to be a happy medium, because ruining someone’s life isn’t going to make life better for the victims,” said Colgan.
He wept as he apologized to the victims’ families at his December 13 sentencing.
“I am not a murderer. I am not a killer. When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me,” he said. “I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life.”
Prosecutors argued he should have used a runaway ramp designed for such situations. Aguilera-Mederos, for his part, said he was struggling to avoid traffic and trying to shift to slow down.
The crash killed 24-year-old Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 67-year-old William Bailey, 61-year-old Doyle Harrison and 69-year-old Stanley Politano. Relatives of victims supported at least some prison time at his sentencing hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.