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Heavy sentence for truck driver leads to calls for clemency

Pilot Truck Stop.jpg
Posted at 7:49 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 21:49:35-05

EL PASO COUNTY, Colorado — The 110-year prison sentence given to a Cuban-American truck driver from Texas responsible for a deadly crash on I-70 in Colorado has drawn national criticism from criminal justice reform advocates. Millions of people have signed an online petition seeking clemency on behalf of the driver.

Several criminal justice reform advocate held a rally at the steps of the state capitol Wednesday to plead for clemency on behalf of the driver, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26.

Additionally, Domingo Garcia, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) announced a meeting with Governor Jared Polis to intervene on Aguilera-Mederos' behalf.

Aguilera-Mederos was convicted at trial in October on 27 felony charges including vehicular homicide, assault, and reckless driving. He is currently being held at the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center. His estimated mandatory release date is August 10, 2131.

Prosecutors with the 1st Judicial District Attorney's Office have submitted a motion with the judge to reconsider the sentence which was guided by mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Many truck drivers at the Pilot Truck Stop on Baptist Road told News 5 they are aware of the case. Ralph Warren has been driving for 24 years and said no one is trying to excuse what Aguilera-Mederos did or did not do.

"He was a young driver and there was a couple of options he could've took instead of what happened for what he did," Warren said.

What bothers him is the proportion of the sentencing.

"The 110 years, I mean there's been some other crimes in the world that are more heinous than that and didn't get no 100 years."

Colorado Springs defense attorney Stephen Longo said the case has gained national attention because of the heavy sentence.

"The judge, Judge Jones even said himself, I don't like rendering this sentence, I don't think this punishment fits the crime, but it's one that my hands are tied to and I'm obligated to put down," Longo said.

More than 4.7 million people have signed an online petition seeking clemency.

Tom Raynes, the Executive Director of the Colorado District Attorney's Council, explained to News 5 in a statement that the Crime of Violence legislation that was used to enhance the sentence in the Aguilera-Mederos case includes "safety-valve" provision where a judge can review a sentence that seems unusual or extreme.

Longo said that the prosecutor should've considered the sentencing implications before bringing charges.

"We don't want to be enacting safety valves when the district attorney's office has control over the charges they bring and know what type of sentence that the defendant's looking at," he said.

Multiple truck drivers shared videos of themselves on social media stating that they will refuse to deliver shipments to Colorado based on the sentencing. Some of the videos show lines of trucks parked on the side of the highway.

Warren said he is unaware of drivers refusing to make deliveries in Colorado and pointed out that some of the videos of parked trucks were shared the day after I-25 was closed because of the wind storm that hit our state.