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Colorado governor reduces truck driver’s sentence to 10 years

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, will be eligible for parole in five years. (Photo: Lakewood Police Department)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis agreed Thursday to reduce the sentence of truck driver Rogel L. Aguilera-Mederos to 10 years, with parole eligibility scheduled in five years on Dec. 30, 2026.

Aguilera-Mederos had been given a 110-year prison sentence after being found guilty in October of four counts of vehicular homicide and 23 other charges stemming from his involvement in a 2019 accident. 

“The clemency power is reserved for only the most unique and deserving cases,” Gov. Polis wrote in a letter to Aguilera-Mederos that was released Thursday night. “My decision today is based solely on the circumstances of your case.”

Aguilera-Mederos was driving a tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 outside of Denver when the truck lost its brakes coming out of the Rocky Mountains. The truck rammed into stopped traffic, causing a fiery 28-vehicle pileup that killed four people and injured six others.

Despite the tragic results, the 110-year sentence – set under the guidelines of Colorado law – was considered excessive by many, with celebrities such as Kim Kardashian getting involved in hopes of reviewing the terms. More than 5 million people signed a petition urging Polis to grant clemency, and a rally was held by supporters last week in Denver.

Defense attorney Jim Colgan told the Denver Post that Aguilera-Mederos had received a call from the governor’s office Thursday informing him of the decision. Colgan added that Gov. Polis would not have intervened had there not been such a large outcry to reduce the sentence.

“Justice was done,” Colgan told the newspaper.

Kardashian tweeted a copy of the Polis executive order after hearing the news.

In granting clemency, Polis cited several reasons:

“You were sentenced to 110 years in prison, effectively more than a life sentence, for a tragic but unintentional act,” he wrote. “While you are not blameless, your sentence is disproportionate compared with many other inmates in our criminal justice system who committed intentional, premeditated, or violent crimes.

“Your highly unusual sentence highlights the lack of uniformity between sentences for similarly situated crimes, which is particularly true when individuals are charged with offenses that require mandatory minimum sentences. 

“This case will hopefully spur an important conversation about sentencing laws, but any subsequent changes to the law would not retroactively impact your sentence, which is why I am granting you this limited commutation.”

On Monday, Colorado Judge A. Bruce Jones scheduled a Jan. 13 hearing to reconsider the 110-year sentence at the request of 1st Judicial District Attorney Alexis King, the prosecutor in the case, who said her office will recommend a sentence of 20 to 30 years.

“This is an exceptional case, and it requires an exceptional process,” King said during a press conference after the hearing. “In finding its verdict, the jury recognized the extreme nature of the defendant’s conduct, which warrants a prison sentence. The defendant caused the death of four people and serious bodily injury to two others, and the impact of his truck caused damage to many more in our community.”

Jones noted during Monday’s status hearing that the prosecution’s request for a reduced sentence was unusual, with reduced sentences usually called for by the defense.

“The people have done things under this statute that I don’t see any precedent for,” Jones said.

Gov. Polis, in his letter to Aguilera-Mederos, agreed with that sentiment.

“The length of your 110-year sentence is simply not commensurate with your actions, nor with penalties handed down to others for similar crimes,” he wrote. “There is an urgency to remedy this unjust sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system, and consequently I have chosen to commute your sentence now.

“At the end of the day, this arbitrary and unjust sentence was the result of a law of Colorado passed by the legislature and signed by a prior Governor and is not the fault of the judge who handed down the mandatory sentence required by the law in this case.

“As such, it falls on me to take action to ensure that justice is served in this case, and I am doing so today with this limited commutation.”

In his letter, Gov. Polis told Aguilera-Mederos: “The crimes you were convicted of are serious. Four individuals lost their lives and others were seriously injured because of your bad decisions. The families of these victims will never again have the chance to embrace their lost loved ones. This was a tragic event that affected many Coloradans. Though your actions have caused immense pain, I am encouraged by your personal reflection and the commercial vehicle safety changes that were made in the wake of this tragedy to ensure this type of event never happens again.”