A change.org petition asking for leniency for a 26-year-old truck driver in Colorado who was sentenced to 110 years for vehicular homicide had been signed by more than 4.5 million people by Tuesday.
The change.org petition asks Governor Jared Polis to grant Rogel Aguilera-Mederos clemency or give him a lesser sentence, the Denver Gazette reported.
Aguilera-Mederos was charged with 27 counts of vehicular assault, assault, reckless driving, plus additional charges. On December 13, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
He testified that he was carrying lumber on his semitrailer on April 25, 2019, when the breaks failed and he crashed into other vehicles that had slowed for a different car wreck.
The gas tanks of at least 28 vehicles exploded, creating a fireball that swallowed surrounding cars and melted part of the highway. Four people died as a result of the crash.
District Court Judge Bruce Jones said the sentence was the mandatory minimum under the state law.
“I will state that if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” Jones said.
A statement from the governor’s office said that “we welcome an application from Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos and will expedite consideration but have not received one yet at this time.”
Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney told KDVR-TV that a request could take time because the sentence was just handed down.
First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King, whose office prosecuted the case, said after sentencing she would welcome a reconsideration of the punishment. But she told the Denver Post that Aguilera-Mederos didn’t accept efforts to negotiate a plea deal, and that the convictions recognized the harm caused to victims of the crash.
Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney, James Colgan, told the Post he intends to appeal the jury’s verdict and that any application for clemency or leniency would have to wait pending that appeal. Among other factors, an application requires input from the Department of Corrections.
Prosecutors argued that as Aguilera-Mederos’ truck barreled down from the mountains, he could have used a runaway ramp alongside the interstate that is designed to safely stop vehicles that have lost their brakes. Aguilera-Mederos testified he was struggling to avoid traffic and to shift his truck into lower gear to slow it down.
He was traveling at least 85 mph (137 kph) on a part of the interstate where commercial vehicles are limited to 45 mph (72 kph).
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 said at Aguilera-Mederos’ sentencing that he should serve time for the crimes.
AP Photo/Lakewood Police Department
Truckers nationwide have voiced outrage over the sentence on Twitter, using the hashtags #NoTrucksToColorado and #NoTrucksColorado, among others.
Duane Bailey, the brother of William Bailey, asked the judge to sentence Aguilera-Mederos to at least 20 years, the Post reported. “He made a deliberate and intentional decision that his life was more important than everyone else on the road that day,” Bailey said.
Bailey’s wife, Gage Evans, told the New York Times that the sentence shouldn’t be commuted but that lawmakers should instead examine the sentencing laws.
“This person should spend some time in prison and think about his actions,” Evans said, adding she and other victims’ relatives object to a “public narrative” that Aguilera-Mederos is a victim. “We are truly the victims,” she said.
Aguilera-Mederos wept as he apologized to the victims’ families at his sentencing. He asked for their forgiveness.
“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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.