DENVER (NewsNation Now) — A Colorado judge will reconsider the 110-year sentence for a truck driver who was convicted of a deadly interstate crash that killed four people in 2019.
Judge Bruce Jones scheduled a hearing for Jan. 13 to reconsider Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence following widespread outrage over the severity of his punishment and an unusual request by prosecutors to revisit the matter.
During a virtual hearing on Monday to discuss the request, one of Aguilera-Mederos’ lawyers, James Colgan, said the defense needed some time to do research to see if there were any similar cases that could help guide its approach.
Jones said he wanted to learn more about whether the law that allowed him to reconsider the sentence gave him discretion to set whatever sentence he wanted.
He said victims would be able to speak at the in-person hearing about whether Aguilera-Mederos should be resentenced. But he noted he did not want them to go through that stress unless they wished to.
“I am a captive audience if they want to speak to me,” he said.
Last week, District Attorney Alexis King said in a statement she would seek a term of 20 to 30 years in the 2019 wreck on Interstate 70 west of Denver — a sentencing range that reflects an “appropriate outcome” for driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ conduct, according to King.
“As the jury found, Mr. Aguilera-Mederos knowingly made multiple active choices that resulted in the death of four people, serious injuries to others, and mass destruction,” King said. “This sentencing range reflects an appropriate outcome for that conduct, which was not an accident.”
District Court Judge Bruce Jones imposed the sentence against Aguilera-Mederos on Dec. 13 after finding it was the mandatory minimum term set forth under state law.
“I will state that if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” the judge said during the hearing.
Aguilera-Mederos, who was convicted in October of vehicular homicide and other charges, testified that the brakes on his semitrailer failed before he plowed into vehicles that had slowed because of another wreck. Prosecutors argued he should have used a runaway ramp designed for such situations.
Aguilera-Mederos’ case has garnered worldwide attention, and an online petition urging Gov. Jared Polis to reduce his sentence or grant clemency has gotten almost 5 million signatures. Kim Kardashian West, an advocate for prison reform, posted several tweets last week about the Aguilera-Mederos case, saying that Polis “is a really good person and I know he will do the right thing.“
Polis’ office said that it is reviewing Aguilera-Medros’ clemency request.
Some of the victims’ families were bothered by efforts to reduce the penalties of the crime.
“All the focus is on how his life is going to be changed forever,” said Gage Evans, whose husband was killed in the crash. “It should be.”
“It would be a bad precedent, if governments allow social media to influence their decisions, you know, without all the facts,” said another victim’s family member.
Aguilera-Mederos’ supporters say the 110-year sentence is deeply unjust, and truck drivers around the country have taken up his cause, using hashtags such as #NoTrucksToColorado and #NoTrucksColorado.
Ian Farrell, a law professor at the University of Denver,