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Reaction mixed after trucker’s prison term slashed to 10 years

Advocates say ‘justice has been served’ while critics ‘disappointed’

Family members of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos and representatives from the League of United Latin American Citizens held a recent rally in Denver protesting his 110 year sentence. (Photo: League of United Latin American Citizens)

The reaction has been divided after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis reduced the prison sentence for a truck driver convicted of causing a fatal crash that killed four people in 2019.

Polis reduced the prison term of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos from 110 years to 10 years after calling the sentence imposed “highly atypical and unjust” in a letter released Thursday night.

Attorney James Colgan, who represents Aguilera-Mederos, told FreightWaves his client “is very, very appreciative of what the governor did.” 

“The prosecution wanted to make an example of Aguilera-Mederos’ case, that’s why they charged it the way they did. I think it’s pretty glaringly obvious that it has blown up in their face,” Colgan said. “It wasn’t the type of case, the kind of behavior that you needed to make an example of him to the rest of the truckers. He never should have been basically sentenced to life in prison. I think the governor saw that.”

Aguilera-Mederos was found guilty in October of four counts of vehicular homicide and 23 other charges for a crash on Interstate 70 outside Denver that killed four people and injured several others. 

Aguilera-Mederos was given a 110-year prison sentence under the guidelines set by Colorado law. The sentence, which was handed down Dec. 13, had drawn public outcry with more than 5 million people signing a petition asking Polis to reduce the sentence or grant clemency.

Celebrity and criminal justice reform activist Kim Kardashian posted a series of tweets about the Aguilera-Mederos case and asked Polis to intervene.

Colgan said the petition and public spotlight on the case likely influenced Polis’ decision.

“But for the 5 million people signing the petition, I do not believe the governor would have been involved as early as he was. I think he would eventually have become involved, but not nearly as fast as he did but for the public outcry about this case,” Colgan said.

Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King, the prosecutor in the case, said she was “disappointed in the governor’s decision to act prematurely.”

King had recently filed a motion requesting for Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence be reduced to 20 to 30 years. A hearing to reconsider the sentence had been scheduled for Jan. 13. It’s not clear if that hearing will still take place.

“I joined the surviving victims and families of those who lost their loved ones in their wish to have the trial judge determine an appropriate sentence in this case, as he heard the facts and evidence of the defendant’s destructive conduct that led to death, injury and devastating destruction,” King said in a statement Thursday night.

“We are meeting with the victims and their loved ones this evening to support them in navigating this unprecedented action and to ensure they are treated with fairness, dignity and respect during this difficult time.”

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which has been advocating on behalf of Aguilera-Mederos, said the sentence reduction was a step in the right direction but it was hoping Polis would grant clemency in the case.

“LULAC is disappointed that a truck driver is being treated and sentenced as a criminal for what was a tragic traffic accident,” Domingo Garcia, LULAC’s national president, said in a statement.

“It is regrettable that lives were lost and others were injured. However, truckers are essential workers in our nation, and this continued persecution of a 26-year-old Latino driver without a blemish on his record, who was neither drunk nor under the influence of drugs, is an unjust act of scapegoating.”

The company Aguilera-Mederos was driving for was identified in news reports as Castellano 03 Trucking LLC in Houston. The trucking company was dissolved months after the fatal crash.

Castellano 03 Trucking, its former owner Yaimy Galan Segura, Aguilera-Mederos and insurance company Progressive Direct have been named in a lawsuit filed by Leslie Ross, who survived the 2019 accident.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]