Jeffco DA seeks hearing to reconsider trucker’s 110-year sentence, Polis will review too

Peter Banda/AP
Authorities survey the scene of a fiery crash on I-70 near Colorado Mills Parkway that shut down the highway in both directions on Friday, April 26, 2019. Lakewood, Colo. A truck driver blamed for causing a deadly pileup involving over two dozen vehicles near Denver has been arrested on vehicular homicide charges. Lakewood police spokesman Ty Countryman said Friday that there’s no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role in Thursday’s crash.

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Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King has asked a judge to set a hearing for reconsideration of the 110-year sentence trucker Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos received after causing a 28-car crash that killed four people when he lost his brakes coming down I-70.

“As Colorado law required the imposition of the sentence in this case, the law also permits the court to reconsider its sentence in an exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances,” King wrote in the motion filed Friday.

The motion takes no position on whether the sentence should be reconsidered, or what alternative the prosecution would offer if it was reconsidered. King said she is collecting testimony and input from the victims or family members and would present that at any future hearing.  

At the time of the sentencing, the judge said he didn’t agree with the steep sentence but said he had little choice given the requirements of Colorado’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws. 

The case has sparked fury across the country as more than 4.5 million people have signed a petition submitted to Gov. Jared Polis to reduce Mederos’ sentence. Supporters have planned rallies in and around Denver. On Wednesday, reality television star, fashion entrepreneur and law student Kim Kardashian weighed in on Twitter, calling Polis a “good person” and said she wanted him to do the “right thing.”

Meanwhile, Mederos’ lawyer Jim Golgan confirmed to CPR News he has filed a formal application for clemency to Gov. Polis. 

“My client is less than confident that he’ll get any sort of fair treatment from the DA’s office,” Golgan said. “He doesn’t want to count on the DA’s office being at all objective or humane about this. He’d rather put his case in the hands of the governor.”

Conor Cahill, a Polis spokesman, said in an email: "We just received Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ application and our legal team is currently reviewing it. Once we reach a decision, we will make an announcement."

The governor has the authority to commute all or part of the sentence, pardon Aguilera-Mederos entirely, decline the application or set it aside for consideration later.

“The governor shall have power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons after conviction, for all offenses except treason,” according to the Colorado Constitution.

The April 2019 trip was Aguilera-Mederos’s first time driving solo on Interstate 70 eastbound coming down the hill into Lakewood from Genesee. His lawyers maintain his brakes failed and he was too overwhelmed at the time to see the multiple runaway truck ramps installed for trucks in trouble coming down the steep decline. 

A jury in October found him guilty of four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault and 10 counts of attempted first-degree assaults and four counts of careless driving causing death. 

Golgan said the family is also considering an appeal to the conviction itself at the Colorado Court of Appeals. Lawyers would have to give notice within 49 days of the sentencing, which was last week, of that appeal.

Golgan said he was hoping to get some news from the governor first.

“Unless something happens before that,” he said. “You have to go forward and keep everything on the table until it’s time to take stuff off the table.”