Judge Schedules Resentencing Hearing For Truck Driver Sentenced To 110 Years In Prison After A Crash That Killed 4

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Rogel Aguilera-Mederos and the I-70 crash

Truckers across the US are rebelling after a man convicted in a 2019 crash on Interstate 70 that left four people dead received what they consider an unfair sentence.

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos captured the attention of millions who have signed a petition requesting he be granted clemency after being sentence to 110 years in prison.

His fellow drivers have been sharing social media videos in a show of solidarity with Aguilera-Mederos, vowing to boycott driving through Colorado, where the verdict was handed down.

And now, it appears that their outrage has worked in some way — District Court Judge Bruce Jones has scheduled a resentencing hearing for January 13, 2022.

What happened during Rogel Aguilera-Mederos's accident? 

On April 25, 2019, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was driving a semi-truck when his brakes failed, causing him to barrel down the highway and crash into stopped traffic — killing four people and causing a fire.

That day, he performed a routine brake check and called his supervisor, Raphael, and told him about the condition of the brakes — because he has more experience than him.

What the then-23-year-old didn’t know, was that those same brakes would fail him and lead to his semi-truck causing a 28-car pile-up, leading to the deaths of four people: Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; William Bailey, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61; and Stanley Politano, 69.

Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years in prison for the I-70 crash.

The jury found him guilty on 27 counts in total, leading to the 110-year sentence — the most serious charges being four counts of vehicular manslaughter.

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The other counts he was found guilty of were first-degree assault, first-degree attempt to commit assault, vehicular assault, reckless driving and careless driving.

He was found not guilty on 15 counts of first-degree attempt to commit assault.

Judge A. Bruce Jones felt sorry for Aguilera-Mederos but said that his hands were tied because of Colorado’s strictly specific violent crime statute.

According to the 9News Legal Expert Scott Robinson, “certain violent crimes require a minimum sentence for each victim, and they have to run consecutively.”

Judge Jones had to sentence Aguilera-Mederos to the required 10-year minimum for each of the six counts of first-degree assault with extreme indifference, to be served consecutively.

Aguilera-Mederos was also sentenced to the required minimum of five years for 10 additional counts of attempted first-degree assault with extreme indifference to be served consecutively as well.

Judge Jones, however, said that if the sentences could be served concurrently, meaning that he would serve time for all his crimes at the same time, he would have given him more than the minimum.

Few have agreed with the harsh punishment.

"In all victim impact statements I read, I did not glean from them someone saying, 'He should be in prison for the rest of his life, and he should never, ever get out," Jones said.

"Far from it. There was forgiveness reflected in those statements, but also a desire that he be punished and serve time in prison, and I share those sentiments."

In addition to the 110 concurrent years in prison as a result of those initial charges, Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 30 years for 11 other charges that will be served concurrently.

However, as of December 27, the process may not be over, as the Colorado violent crime statute gives the judge some discretion after 180 days have passed to reduce the sentencing.

With the statute, as well as the resentencing hearing, Aguilera-Mederos could be looking at a lesser sentence.

But the new sentence could still keep Aguilera-Mederos in jail for decades.

Judge Jones seemed uneasy about scheduling a hearing so soon, especially because Aguilera-Mederos has still not formally appealed his sentencing and has 149 days to do so.

“The idea of me prospectively modifying a sentence and then the case being up on appeal is troubling to me,” he said.

During the December 27 virtual hearing, Judge Jones said that victims can testify during the new hearing. He also stated that Aguilera-Menderos’ lawyers submit a memo that details the new sentencing they would like for their client.

But while many are hoping that the judge will reduce the sentence significantly, it's expected that First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King will ask for a lesser sentence of 20 to 30 years.

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Prosecution argued that Aguilera-Mederos made many reckless mistakes. 

During the case, the jury basically needed to decide whether the crash was a result of a series of bad choices made by the defendant, or whether the cause was a mechanical failure that the driver had no control over.

The prosecution argued that he had several choices: there was a runaway truck ramp that they claim he missed on purpose, that he should’ve known the brakes on the truck should not be driven on, or that he should’ve collided with the other 18-wheeler that was parked under the bridge where the crash occurred.

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Defense attorney James Colgan recognizes that hindsight is 20-20, and that for someone barreling down the highway in a semi-truck that could weigh well over 35,000 pounds, it would be hard to see anything else.

"Contrary to what the prosecution has said, he didn't purposely avoid the runaway truck ramp. He was moving in and out of traffic," Colgan said. "Maybe there was some tunnel vision going on here. If anyone has ever been under stress, especially unexpected stress just think about that for a second. You focus on one thing."

Aguilera-Mederos said that his plan was to just stay on the shoulder until he could find a flatter area to slow the truck to a stop until he saw the 18-wheeler parked under the bridge.

"So the semi was here. So what I did was to hit the trailer, which is something that is bigger, so that the truck would slow in speed, but once I hit it, I was not able to control anything," he said.

The prosecution argued that he chose to specifically target the smaller “sitting ducks with nowhere to go” because he “didn't care about the other people on the road.”

"The truth of the matter is that by the time this truck got to the bottom of the hill, there were no options available. All the options were not available where no one was going to get hurt," Colgan argued. "It's easy to be an armchair quarterback. It's very easy to say 'This is what I would have done.' But the fact that Mr. Mederos was not willing to commit suicide doesn't make him a killer."

The victims — Doyle Harrison, William Bailey, Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano and Stanley Politano — will be missed by the loved ones who prepared statements but expressed their willingness to forgive Aguilera-Mederos.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.