DENVER — More than 2 million people have signed an online petition calling for a change to the sentence given to the truck driver who caused a deadly, fiery crash on Interstate 70 in April 2019.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years in prison on Dec. 13 after a jury found him guilty on 42 counts, including vehicular homicide, first-degree assault, attempted first-degree assault, vehicular assault, reckless driving and careless driving.
Judge A. Bruce Jones said his hands were tied when it came to sentencing because of mandatory minimum laws in the state.
Domingo Garcia, the national president of LULAC, a Latino civil rights organization, says they’re backing the petition, calling the sentence an injustice.
“This case is so egregious,” Garcia said. “It boggles the mind that here we are in 2021 and that somebody who was not intoxicated, not on drugs… It's an accident, the brakes went out. But here's the Latino driver, he gets charged, convicted and given 110 years of prison on his first offense.”
Garcia said it’s not the jury who convicted him, but Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King because of the charges she chose to file against Aguilera-Mederos. He believes they can file charges with the Colorado Bar Association “to see if she abused her authority.”
“We can ask for a grand jury to be convened to look at official oppression,” Garcia said. “We're going to ask the Department of Justice to come and investigate the district attorney's office to see if white defendants are treated different from Black and brown defendants and if there is a pattern and system of practice of just justice and racism discrimination in that district attorney's office.”
In response, King provided the following statement:
“This tragedy was devastating to the victims, their families and our entire community. The actions and decisions of Mr. Aguilera-Mederos resulted in the loss of four lives, devastating injuries to the survivors and – as we heard them state during the sentencing hearing – grave impacts to their families and loved ones. We initiated plea negotiations but Mr. Aguilera-Mederos declined to consider anything other than a traffic ticket. The facts and consequences of his decisions that day were extraordinary enough to support pursuing first-degree assault charges. Ethically, we do not – nor can we – pick and choose between victims in charging. The jury’s thoughtful verdict reflects the strength of the evidence presented and recognizes the harm caused to the victims. The sentence – which our office requested the minimum for – is within the purview of the court and reflects the judgment of the legislature. Just as the law mandates this outcome, it also provides future opportunity to revisit the sentence, and we will again pursue an appropriate outcome if that opportunity arises, after consulting with the victims and survivors and receiving their input.”
Garcia said the reason Aguilera-Mederos did not agree to a plea deal is because he believed he was innocent.
Garcia says he is also calling on Gov. Jared Polis to intervene.
Four people died in the fiery crash that involved 28 vehicles on April 25, 2019. Aguilera-Mederos told police he lost control of his brakes while driving a semi-truck hauling lumber on eastbound I-70. He drove onto the shoulder and crashed into traffic at the Colorado Mills Parkway overpass. He was going at least 85 miles per hour just before the crash, according to police.