Colorado trucker’s 110-year sentence reduced to 10 years after outcry

The Guardian
The Guardian

The Colorado governor has intervened to reduce the 110-year sentence handed down to a trucker for his role in a fatal 2019 collision after widespread outcry and calls for leniency.

Jared Polis announced Thursday he would commute the sentence for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, reducing his sentence from 110 years to 10 years. Under the new sentence, the 26-year-old would be eligible for parole in five years.

Related: ‘Miscarriage of justice’: outcry after Colorado trucker given 110 years for fatal accident

“I am writing to inform you that I am granting your application for a commutation,” Polis wrote. “I believe you deserve clemency for several reasons. You were sentenced to 110 years in prison, effectively more than a life sentence, for a tragic but unintentional act.”

Polis said that the sentence was “simply not commensurate” with Aguilera-Mederos’ “actions, nor with penalties handed down to others for similar crimes”.

In October, a jury convicted Aguilera-Mederos of vehicular homicide and other charges related to a deadly collision that occurred while he was hauling lumber in the Rocky Mountain foothills. He has said that the brakes on his semi-trailer failed as he was descending a steep section of the highway, leading to four deaths and a multi-vehicle pileup.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos. Photograph: AP

The lengthy sentence, which the judge said he was obligated to give Aguilera-Mederos due to minimum sentencing laws in the state, was widely condemned and fueled criticism of the US justice system. More than 5 million people signed a petition calling for Polis to grant clemency to Aguilera-Mederos or commute his sentence, an effort truckers, civil rights groups and celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West voiced support for.

“It is a stark miscarriage of justice,” said Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (Lulac), of the sentence. Lulac sent a letter to Polis on behalf of Aguilera-Mederos, a Cuban immigrant, requesting a pardon or a reduction of his sentence, and Garcia traveled to Colorado to meet with the governor.

Kardashian West, a criminal justice reform advocate, was among those who praised the governor’s decision.

“This case was a clear example of why mandatory minimums don’t work and need to be abolished. I’m grateful to Governor Polis for his empathy and leadership on this case,” Kardashian West said on Twitter .

The decision was among several end-of-the-year commutations and pardons issued by Polis. The governor’s announcement comes after a judge scheduled a hearing next month to reconsider the sentence at the request of the district attorney, who had planned to ask that it be reduced to 20 to 30 years.

The ACLU of Colorado has expressed hope that the case might prompt reform of mandatory minimum sentencing laws in the state.

“The extraordinary nature of this particular case has prompted comments from some lawmakers that they may be interested in doing that,” said Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the ACLU of Colorado. “Sometimes unfortunately it takes an extraordinary case like this that put something that ought to be on the legislative agenda to the top of the legislative agenda.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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