Almost five million people have signed a petition to reduce the 110-year sentence of 26-year-old Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, a truck driver who reportedly caused a 28-car pileup near Denver, Colo. that left four dead in 2019.
CNN reported that Aguilera-Mederos, was going 85 mph in a semi on Interstate 70 when he hit traffic in Lakewood, Colo. He told investigators that his brakes failed, and he tried to pull over on the shoulder, but another semi was already stopped there. He crashed into several vehicles and four people were killed in the pileup.
A jury found Aquilera-Mederos guilty of 27 counts including vehicular homicide and vehicular assault in October, the New York Times reported. Judge A. Bruce Jones sentenced him to 110 years in prison.
“If I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” the judge said, according to Reuters.
But Colorado state law requires sentences for each count to be served separately, rather than at the same time. So, Aquilera-Mederos’s 27 counts brought a sentence over a century long.
Journalists, criminal justice advocates, businesses, lawmakers and the general public have called on Colorado state legislators and the governor to commute the sentence and change the laws.
“I have been in this system for 32 years and I have never seen anything like this,” said James Colgan, a lawyer for Aguilera-Mederos.
Prosecutors have argued that Aguilera-Mederos was responsible for the deaths because of several decisions he made while behind the wheel, including not steering the truck, which was hauling lumber, onto a runaway truck ramp along the highway, NYT reported.
“I think the chances are pretty good that the governor is going to look at that favorably,” he said, adding, “This is truly, truly, truly something that is out of the ordinary.”
The wife of one of the victims in the crash told NYT she does believe Aguilera-Medeiros’s sentence should be commuted, but that legislators should reevaluate the state’s sentencing laws.
“This person should spend some time in prison and think about his actions,” said Ms. Evans, 65. “I don’t think he should be let off with a slap on the wrist.”
She reportedly told NYT that she and the other family members of the victims dispute the “public narrative” that Aguilera-Mederos is a victim.
“We are truly the victims,” she said, adding that she believes Aguilera-Mederos made “bad decisions all along the way that day.”
The office of Color. Gov. Jared Polis said it would review the driver’s application for clemency. And the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Colorado said it had filed a motion to reconsider the penalty.
“We’re not saying he’s innocent and didn’t make mistakes,” Colgan told the NYT. But that “the punishment has to fit the crime and this punishment does not fit the crime.”