Over 3 million people have signed a petition calling on a reduced sentence for truck driver in I-70 crash

December 17, 2021
Workers clear debris from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 on Friday, April 26, 2019, in Lakewood, Colo., a deadly pileup involving semi-truck hauling lumber on Thursday. Lakewood police spokesman John Romero described it as a chain reaction of crashes and explosions from ruptured gas tanks. "It was crash, crash, crash and explosion, explosion, explosion," he said.Workers clear debris from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 on Friday, April 26, 2019, in Lakewood, Colo., a deadly pileup involving semi-truck hauling lumber on Thursday. Lakewood police spokesman John Romero described it as a chain reaction of crashes and explosions from ruptured gas tanks. "It was crash, crash, crash and explosion, explosion, explosion," he said.David Zalubowski/AP
Workers clear debris from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 on Friday, April 26, 2019, in Lakewood, Colo., a deadly pileup involving semi-truck hauling lumber on Thursday.

More than 3.2 million people and counting have signed a Change.org petition calling for a reduced sentence for Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, the 26-year-old semi-truck driver who crashed into traffic on Interstate 70 in Lakewood, killing four people.

Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced this week to 110 years in prison for the 2019 crash, which happened after the brakes on his truck failed and he passed a runaway truck ramp. The 28-car pile-up closed I-70 for a day. 

Stanley Politano, 69; Doyle Harrison, 61; Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; and William Bailey, 67, died in the crash.

A jury found Aguilera-Mederos guilty on vehicular homicide and 23 other charges, including six counts of first-degree assault, 10 counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree, two counts of vehicular assault, one count of reckless driving and four counts of careless driving.

The petition asks signees to call or email Gov. Jared Polis’ office and urge the governor to grant Aguilera-Mederos clemency. 

"We are aware of this issue, the Governor and his team review each clemency application individually,” Polis’ office wrote in a statement to CPR.

In a Dec. 15 statement, the prosecutor praised the sentence.

“Hopefully the judge’s sentence provides a sense of justice to the victims, our community and everyone who was impacted by this tragedy,” the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office said.

But the judge in the case, Bruce Jones, said he wouldn’t have put Aguilera-Mederos in prison for so long if he had had more discretion over his sentence, according to The Denver Post. State law dictates certain mandatory minimum sentences

At least one of the victim’s families said they wouldn’t have given Aguilera-Mederos a lifetime sentence either.

Truckers have taken to social media, saying they will boycott Colorado during their routes. Joe Rajkovacz, director of communications for the Western States Trucking Association (WSTA), which includes the Coalition of American-Latino Truckers, said he hadn’t heard of an industry-wide boycott as of Friday. But Rajkovacz said members of the WSTA, a California-based trade association that advocates for drivers, have sent him the petition, asking that he sign it.

A former truck driver, Rajkovacz said Colorado’s mountainous roads are challenging for even the most experienced drivers. He called the sentence handed to Aguilera-Mederos, who was 23 at the time of the crash, cruel. 

“I’m going to sound like a liberal, but you don’t add heartbreak to heartbreak,” Rajkovacz said.

CPR's Allison Sherry contributed to this story.

You care.

You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up.  The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!