DENVER - Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has granted clemency to 26-year-old Rogel Aguilera-Mederos who was given a 110-year prison sentence for an explosive crash that killed four people in suburban Denver.
The move by Polis comes as a state district attorney asked a judge on Monday to consider reducing Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence following public outcry from around the country and among truckers, with around 5 million people signing an online petition seeking clemency for him.
Polis says he is commuting Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence to 10 years and granting him parole eligibility on Dec. 30, 2026.
"I believe you deserve clemency for several reasons. You were sentenced to 110 years in prison, effectively more than a life sentence, for a tragic but unintentional act. 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. Your highly unusual sentence highlights the lack of uniformity between sentences for similarly situated crimes, which is particularly true when individuals are charged with offenses that require mandatory minimum sentences. This case will hopefully spur an important conversation about sentencing laws, but any subsequent changes to the law would not retroactively impact your sentence, which is why I am granting you this limited commutation," Polis wrote in a letter.
Polis says he believes the original 110 year sentence was not "commensurate" with the actions of Aguilera-Mederos. He called the sentence "unjust" and said reducing it would "restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system."
While Polis says the original sentencing of over a century was unjust, he believes Aguilera-Mederos still has a responsibility for his actions which resulted in the deaths of four people.
"I strongly encourage you to take additional responsibility for your actions by seeking restorative justice opportunities to address your obligations to those who suffered loss and to repair the needs of the community due to your carelessness," Polis said.
"You have wondered why your life was spared when other lives were taken. You will struggle with this burden of this event for the rest of your life, but never forget that because of this event, countless others will struggle with the loss of their loved ones or injuries as well. And you will serve your just sentence," Polis added.
Around 5 million people signed an online petition seeking seeking clemency for Aguilera-Mederos, who was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges in an explosive wreck that killed four people in 2019.
Aguilera-Mederos testified that he was hauling lumber when the brakes on his semitrailer failed as he was descending a steep grade of Interstate 70 in the Rocky Mountain foothills.
His truck plowed into vehicles that had slowed because of another wreck, setting off a chain-reaction wreck and a fireball that consumed vehicles and melted parts of the highway.
Four people died in a fiery crash on I-70 in Lakewood, Colorado on April 25, 2019. Semi truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years in prison. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Judge Bruce Jones imposed the 110-year sentence on Dec. 13 after finding it was the mandatory minimum term set forth under state law, noting it would not have been his choice.
Prosecutors had argued that as Aguilera-Mederos’ truck barreled down from the mountains, he could have used a runaway ramp alongside the interstate that is designed to safely stop vehicles that have lost their brakes.
The crash killed 24-year-old Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 67-year-old William Bailey, 61-year-old Doyle Harrison and 69-year-old Stanley Politano.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.