Colorado’s governor is cutting the truck driver’s prison sentence from 110 to 10 years

People are holding signs in support of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos during a convention on Dec. 22 in Denver. Colorado Governor Jared Polis on Thursday shortened Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence from 110 to 10 years.Helen H. Richardson / The Associated Press

Colorado Governor Jared Polis on Thursday shortened the prison sentence for a truck driver sentenced in a fatal crash to 10 years, drastically reducing his original 110-year term, causing widespread outrage.

The decision on Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ verdict was among several year-ends and pardons issued by Polis.

The move comes days after a judge scheduled a hearing next month to reconsider the verdict at the request of the district attorney, who planned to ask for it to be reduced to 20 to 30 years.

About 5 million people signed an online petition asking for pardon for Aguilera-Mederos, who was convicted of killing vehicles and other charges in the explosive 2019 pile that killed four people.

Aguilera-Mederos testified that he was towing timber when the brakes on his semi-trailer failed as he was heading down a steep road on Interstate 70 at the foot of Rocky Mountain. His truck plowed into vehicles that had slowed down due to another wreck, triggering a chain reaction crash and a fireball that corroded vehicles and melted parts of the highway.

Judge Bruce Jones sentenced the 110-year-old to prison on Dec. 13 after finding it was the mandatory minimum term set by state law, noting that it would not have been his choice.

Prosecutors had claimed that when Aguilera-Mederos’ truck drove down from the mountains, he could have used a runaway ramp along the interstate highway designed to safely stop vehicles that have lost their brakes.

District Attorney Alexis King said Thursday she was disappointed with the governor’s decision. She said it was too early and went against the wishes of the surviving victims and families who lost their loved ones, who wanted to have the judge who oversaw the trial decide the appropriate punishment.

“We meet with the victims and their loved ones tonight to support them in navigating this unprecedented act and to ensure that they are treated with justice, dignity and respect during this difficult time,” she said in a statement.

The accident killed 24-year-old Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 67-year-old William Bailey, 61-year-old Doyle Harrison and 69-year-old Stanley Politano.

In a letter to Aguilera-Mederos explaining his decision, Polis said that although he was not innocent of the crash, the 110-year sentence was disproportionate compared to inmates who committed intentional, premeditated or violent crimes.

The governor said the case would hopefully spur a discussion on sentencing laws, but he noted that any future changes would not help Aguilera-Mederos.

“There is an urgent need to remedy this unjust sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system, and that is why I have chosen to transpose your sentence now,” Polis wrote.

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