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Judge to consider bid to lower trucker's 110-year sentence

Authorities survey the scene of a fiery crash on I-70 that killed four people on Friday, April 26, 2019.
Peter Banda
Authorities survey the scene of a fiery crash on I-70 that killed four people on Friday, April 26, 2019.

A judge on Monday was set to consider a request from prosecutors to reduce the 110-year prison sentence of a truck driver for an explosive crash that killed four people in suburban Denver.

The sentence given to Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, has drawn outrage from around the country and among truckers, with around 5 million people signing an online petition seeking clemency for him. In addition to the prosecution's request to lower the sentence, Aguilera-Mederos has requested clemency from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

Last week, District Attorney Alexis King said in a statement she would seek a term of 20 to 30 years in the 2019 wreck on Interstate 70 west of Denver — a sentencing range that reflects an “appropriate outcome” for Aguilera-Mederos' conduct.

“As the jury found, Mr. Aguilera-Mederos knowingly made multiple active choices that resulted in the death of four people, serious injuries to others, and mass destruction,” King said.

District Court Judge Bruce Jones imposed the 110-year sentence against Aguilera-Mederos on Dec. 13 after finding it was the mandatory minimum term set forth under state law.

“I will state that if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” the judge said during the hearing.

One of Aguilera-Mederos' attorneys, Leonard Martinez, said the district attorney's new requested sentencing range is not consistent with similar cases in Colorado and the United States.

“We plan to move forward and to keep all options open in achieving Justice for Rogel, including the possibility of clemency from Governor Polis,” Martinez said.

Colorado law allows for sentences for crimes deemed violent to be modified in cases with “unusual and extenuating circumstances,” but those sentences cannot take effect until 119 days after a person enters prison.

Aguilera-Mederos testified that he was hauling lumber when the brakes on his semitrailer failedas he was descending a steep grade of Interstate 70 in the Rocky Mountain foothills on April 25, 2019. His truck plowed into vehicles that had slowed because of another wreck, setting off a chain-reaction wreck and a fireball that consumed vehicles and melted parts of the highway.

He wept as he apologized to the victims’ families at his Dec. 13 sentencing.

"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.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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