Amid backlash, Colorado governor cuts 100 years off truck driver’s sentence
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Amid backlash, Colorado governor cuts 100 years off truck driver’s sentence

Colorado Governor Jared Polis on Thursday reduced by a century the sentence of 26-year-old truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, whose brakes failed, resulting in four deaths. Originally sentenced to 110 years for an offense with no criminal intent, public outcry against Aguilera-Mederos’ harsh treatment prompted the governor’s and the district attorney’s offices to reconsider the sentence.

Aguilera-Mederos was driving a lumber truck on a mountainous part of Interstate 70 when his brakes gave out as he travelled downhill. The truck ran into stopped traffic and burst into flames. He was charged with four counts of homicide and several counts of assault and reckless driving.

No criminal intent was alleged, but the resulting deaths elevated the accident to a “crime of violence,” triggering mandatory minimum sentencing enhancements. Under Colorado law, the facts required the judge to order the sentences to be served consecutively rather than concurrently. District Court Judge Bruce Jones stated at the sentencing hearing that he would not have handed down such an aggressive sentence if not for the mandatory minimums.

Five million people signed a petition calling for clemency. Kim Kardashian used her platform to call for reforms to the state’s mandatory minimum laws. In response to the backlash, District Attorney Alexis King filed for reconsideration which would have been heard on January 13 if not for Governor Polis’ grant of clemency. In his clemency letter, Polis spoke about “an urgency to remedy this unjust sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system.”

Polis also told Aguilera-Mederos:

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.

Aguilera-Mederos will now be parole eligible on December 30, 2026.

Also on Thursday, Governor Polis pardoned 1,351 people in Colorado who had been convicted of possessing two ounces or less of marijuana.