Millions sign petition to reduce 110-year jail term for Colorado trucker in deadly crash

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos has said that malfunctioning brakes were the primary cause of the crash. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM JOSEPH MORRIS/TWITTER

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Days after a Colorado judge sentenced a truck driver to 110 years in prison for his role in a 2019 crash that killed four people, an online petition seeking for the sentence to be reduced has been signed by more than four million people.

On April 25, 2019, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was driving a truck on Interstate 70 in Lakewood, Colorado, near Denver, when it crashed into several cars, killing four people.

In October, a jury found him guilty of 27 counts, including vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. On Dec 13, district court judge Bruce Jones, sentenced Aguilera-Mederos, now 26, to more than a century in prison, citing Colorado state law that required sentences for each count to be served consecutively, rather than concurrently.

Almost immediately, the lengthy sentence drew scrutiny, including from the judge, who, Reuters reported, said: "If I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence."

In a Dec 15 editorial, The Denver Post urged Govenor Jared Polis of Colorado to commute the sentence and called on state legislators to change the law that mandated it.

Aguilera-Mederos has said that malfunctioning brakes were the primary cause of the crash.

Prosecutors in the case 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.

A petition on the website called what happened a "tragic accident" and urged Governor Polis to either grant Aguilera-Mederos clemency or a commutation. By Sunday (Dec 19), it had collected more than 4.2 million signatures.

Mr Conor Cahill, a spokesman for Mr Polis, said "we welcome an application" from the defence.

Mr James Colgan, a lawyer for Aguilera-Mederos, said he plans to seek a commutation, which lessens the severity of the sentence, not a pardon, which excuses or forgives the offence.

A commutation would not change the jury's decision to convict Aguilera-Mederos but would change how much time, if any, he would spend incarcerated.

Ms Gage Evans, the wife of Mr William Bailey, who died in the crash, said on Sunday that she does not believe the sentence should be commuted. Instead, she thinks state legislators should re-evaluate the law that forces him to serve each of his sentences consecutively.

"This person should spend some time in prison and think about his actions," said Ms Evans, 65.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.