Colorado First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King has formally requested a hearing that may allow District Court Judge Bruce Jones to reduce the 110-year sentence of 26-year-old truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the Denver Post reported Tuesday afternoon. Aguilera-Mederos’ tractor-trailer crashed into stopped traffic on I-70 after coming down from the mountains outside Denver in 2019. The wreck involved 28 cars and resulted in four deaths.
Although King filed the motion last Friday, the office didn’t announce it until yesterday. Aguilera-Mederos’ sentencing was prompted by mandatory minimums attached to some of the 27 charges of which he was convicted. When Aguilera-Mederos received the sentence on Dec. 13, Judge Jones noted that he didn’t have the discretion to change it, and it wasn’t the one he would have given.
However, the judge is allowed to reconsider sentences subject to mandatory minimums if “unusual and extenuating circumstances” apply, and with an accompanying report from the Department of Corrections, according to the Denver Post. There is some disagreement on how soon after initial sentencing this process may take place; King stated that the report could be submitted as early as Thursday, but according to state law, sentences can’t be altered until the defendant has spent at least 119 days in prison.
Mandatory minimums are automatically triggered in what Colorado law terms “crimes of violence” — that is, “any offense in which someone is either killed or dies or has serious bodily injury,” according to Ian Farrell, associate professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, by way of KDVR. Sentences for “crimes of violence” also must be served consecutively — one by one — rather than concurrently, or all at the same time. The judge is powerless to modify that sentencing when it’s given, though they may do so after the fact, in such a case of “unusual and extenuating circumstances.”
Farrell told ABC News that for Aguilera-Mederos’ charges that weren’t tagged as “crimes of violence” — like vehicular homicide, which is a class four felony — Jones issued concurrent sentences. Even so, the truck driver received “the same sentence as someone who intentionally killed 100 people would have gotten in Colorado,” Farrell noted.
The case has garnered massive attention in the media and through social channels, with a Change.org petition urging Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to commute Aguilera-Mederos’ sentencing gathering 4.6 million signatures as of Wednesday morning. Last week, a trucker boycott in Colorado went viral on TikTok, and rallies protesting the life sentence have been staged in Denver in the days since.
Aguilera-Mederos’ defense attorney James Colgan told the Denver Post on Tuesday that King and the DA’s office is now acting out of public pressure, after pursuing the charges that resulted in the life sentence in the first place.
“It’s political scrambling,” he said. “They’re feeling a lot of heat and they want their foot off the fire as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, King has stated that prosecutors attempted to negotiate a plea deal with Aguilera-Mederos, but he “declined to consider anything other than a traffic ticket,” per ABC News.
Colgan has filed a clemency application on behalf of his client, Gov. Polis confirmed on Tuesday.