Colorado truck driver’s jail sentence reduced by 100 years
The 110-year prison sentence for a truck driver in a 2019 crash that killed four was reduced to 10 years by the governor of Colorado on Thursday.
Governor Jared Polis called the opening sentence “unfair” and “disproportionate to many other inmates.”
“Your very unusual sentence highlights the inconsistency between sentences for similar crimes,” Polis wrote in a letter to the driver, Rogel L. Aguilera-Mederos. He added: “This case will hopefully spark an important conversation about sentencing laws” in the future.
Mr. Aguilera-Mederos will be eligible for parole on December 30, 2026, according to the governor’s letter.
On April 25, 2019, Mr. Aguilera-Mederos was driving a truck on Interstate 70 in Lakewood, Colorado, near Denver, when he crashed into several cars, killing four people.
Mr Aguilera-Mederos said faulty brakes were the main cause of the crash. The company he was driving for, identified in local reports as Castellano 03 Trucking LLC in Houston, did not immediately respond to messages left at phone numbers associated with the company.
In October, a jury found Aguilera-Mederos guilty of 27 counts, including homicide and assault on a vehicle. On December 13, District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones sentenced Mr. Aguilera-Mederos, then 26, to more than a century in prison, citing a Colorado state law that required that the sentences for each count be served consecutively, rather than concurrently.
The lengthy sentence was immediately reviewed by people, including the judge, who, Reuters reported, said: “If I had the discretion, it wouldn’t be my sentence.”
A petition calling for a reduction in Mr. Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence quickly garnered millions of signatures.
As the petition gained traction, Gage Evans, wife of William Bailey, who died in the crash, said in an interview that Mr Aguilera-Mederos “should spend time in jail and reflect on his actions”.
“We are really the victims,” she said, adding that she believed Mr Aguilera-Mederos had made “bad decisions all day long”.
Prosecutors initially said Mr Aguilera-Mederos was responsible for the deaths due to several decisions he made while driving, including not to steer the truck, which was carrying timber, onto a ramp of fleeing trucks along from the highway.
Before formally requesting a commutation – which would reduce the prison sentence but not overturn the conviction – a lawyer for Mr. Aguilera-Mederos, James Colgan, said that “we are not saying that he is innocent and that he is did not make mistakes ”, but that“ the punishment must correspond to the crime, and this punishment does not correspond to the crime.
The move came as Mr. Polis pardoned more than 1,300 people who had been convicted of possession of two ounces or less of marijuana. He commuted the sentences of two other people.
“You wondered why your life was spared when other lives were taken,” the governor wrote to Mr. Aguilera-Mederos. “You will struggle with the burden of this event for the rest of your life” and “you will serve your just sentence.”
Alyssa Lukpat contributed reports.