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Colorado Gov Reduces Trucker's 110-Year Sentence to 10 after Celebrity Outrage

Governor Jared Polis commutes sentence of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos amid outcry

 on 31st December 2021 @ 8.00pm
rogel aguilera mederos s sentence has been slashed from 110 years to just 10 © press
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos's sentence has been slashed from 110 years to just 10

Colorado's Democrat Governor Jared Polis has reduced the 110-year sentence of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos to just ten years after a backlash from celebrities over the case.

On Thursday, Polis stepped in and commuted the sentence amid widespread pressure and public outcry from Kim Kardashian.

Aguilera-Mederos was jailed over a deadly crash that occurred while he was driving the truck that caused the fatal accident.

The governor called the lengthy penalty for a fatal roadway accident "arbitrary and unjust."

"You were sentenced to 110 years in prison, effectively more than a life sentence, for a tragic but unintentional act," Polis wrote in a letter. 

"While you are not blameless, your sentence is disproportionate compared with many other inmates in our criminal justice system who committed intentional, premeditated, or violent crimes."

four people were killed in the horrific crash © press
Four people were killed in the horrific crash

Aguilera-Mederos' harsh sentence on December 13 drew criticism among millions of people - including a juror who had found him guilty, and Kardashian - who has remained vocal in her objection to the sentencing.

Instead of serving 110 years in prison, Aguilera-Mederos will serve ten years and be eligible for parole beginning on December 30, 2026.

The commutation came after Aguilera-Mederos applied for clemency following his sentence earlier this month on 27 charges, including four counts of vehicular manslaughter.

The punishment drew outrage and ignited a petition on that garnered millions of signatures from people who supported a reduction.

"The length of your 110-year sentence is simply not commensurate with your actions, nor with penalties handed down to others for similar crimes," the governor added.

"There is an urgency to remedy this unjust sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system, and consequently, I have chosen to commute your sentence now."

The sentence highlights the lack of uniformity between similar crimes, particularly for suspects charged for offenses that require mandatory minimum sentences, the governor said.

He said he hopes the case spurs conversations about sentencing laws. 

He further called on the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to review sentencing guidelines to "ensure greater consistency in sentencing to prevent future bizarre outcomes like the one in this case."

Aguilera-Mederos was traveling at about 85 mph on April 26, 2019, before crashing into dozens of stopped cars and causing an explosion on Interstate 70 near Denver.

Four people were killed: Doyle Harrison, 61, of Hudson; William Bailey, 67, and Stan Politano, 69, both of Arvada; and 24-year-old Denver resident Miguel Angel Lamas Arrellano.

Prosecutors argued that Aguilera-Mederos, 26, who said his brakes failed, could have used several ramps to come to a stop.

An arrest affidavit said that he tried pulling over to the shoulder off the road, but another semi was already stopped there. 

"I am not a criminal," he tearfully told a judge.

"I am not a murderer. I am not a killer.

"When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me.

"I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life."

kim kardashian led the celebrity outcry over the case © press
Kim Kardashian led the celebrity outcry over the case

The 110-year sentence was based on mandatory minimum laws that apply to violent crimes. 

Colorado District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones seemed not to agree with the guidelines, saying he was bound by state laws on mandatory-minimum sentencing that required him to impose the punishment to run consecutively as opposed to concurrently. 

Last week, First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King, whose office prosecuted Aguilera-Mederos, took the unusual step of asking a court to reconsider the sentence and impose a more lenient punishment.

On Thursday, she decried the governor's actions. 

"From the beginning, we have followed the process set forth in the law to reach a just resolution of this case.

"We are disappointed in the Governor's decision to act prematurely.

"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."

She said prosecutors were meeting with the victims and their loved ones "to support them in navigating this unprecedented action and to ensure they are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect during this difficult time."

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West took an interest in the case and called for Polis to end mandatory minimum sentencing, which has led to lengthy sentences that are often disproportionate with the crimes being prosecuted, according to many criminal justice advocates. 

"This case was a clear example of why mandatory minimums don’t work and need to be abolished," Kardashian West tweeted Thursday. 

"I’m grateful to Governor Polis for his empathy and leadership on this case."

The commutation was one of three granted by Polis on Thursday.

He also granted 15 individual pardons and signed an executive order granting 1,351 pardons for convictions of marijuana possession of two ounces or less. 

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tags: judge | Prisons
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