About 100 people rallied at the Colorado State Capitol on Wednesday in support of clemency for the truck driver who was sentenced to more than a century in prison last week, with many in the crowd hoping to continue the movement’s mounting momentum.
“This type of injustice has to stop,” said Leonard Martinez, an attorney for the trucker’s family. “It has to stop at every level. It starts with legislation, it starts with the district attorney’s offices and it starts with our judges. We cannot stop until this system has been changed.”
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 110 years in prison after he was convicted of 27 crimes after he lost his brakes while driving a semitrailer on Interstate 70 in Colorado’s high country in 2019. Aguilera-Mederos passed by a runaway truck ramp designed to stop out-of-control semis and instead crashed into stopped traffic in Lakewood, killing four people in a fiery 28-car pileup.
The 110-year sentence drew immediate criticism, and calls for clemency have spread nationwide in the nine days since the sentencing.
“I want to see my son, I want to see my son,” Oslaida Mederos, the trucker’s mother, said in Spanish through sobs during Wednesday’s rally.
She and others emphasized that Aguilera-Mederos was not using alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. Prosecutors said he was driving recklessly fast hours before the crash, and chose to keep driving in Colorado’s mountains despite knowing the truck had a problem with its brakes.
More than 4.6 million people have signed an online petition calling for Gov. Jared Polis to commute Aguilera-Mederos’s sentence. Polis said through a spokesman that his office would expedite consideration of Aguilera-Mederos’s clemency application, which the trucker submitted to the governor’s office Monday.
On Tuesday, First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King, whose office pursued the charges that ensured convictions would lead to Aguilera-Mederos spending decades in prison, announced she had asked a judge to expedite a separate legal process to reconsider Aguilera-Mederos’s sentence. District Court Judge Bruce Jones set a hearing Monday to discuss the prosecution’s request.
“We understand and appreciate the frustration of those seeking immediate consideration and ask for patience as we take the steps allowed by law before the judge who knows this case and the community that was impacted,” King said in a statement Wednesday.
Jones said as he imposed the sentence last week that he was doing so only because he was compelled by the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws. He suggested he would have meted out a lesser sentence if he’d had the legal authority to do so and implied he was open to reconsidering the sentence later.
State Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, addressed the crowd at Wednesday’s rally and said that while the morning’s event was focused on Aguilera-Mederos, wider criminal justice reform is needed.
“I want to acknowledge there are dozens, if not more, people with pending applications for clemency before the governor right now,” she said. “So while we call for justice for Rogel, let us also remind ourselves there are other people seeking justice as well.”
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