Colorado governor told he set dangerous precedent ordering reduction of trucker sentence

‘That sentence is far too low for someone who kills four people in the appallingly reckless way in which Mr. Aguilera-Mederos chose to do so,’ a pair of district attorneys said in a letter to the governor

Graig Graziosi
Friday 28 January 2022 20:07

Related video: Rogel Aguilera-Mederos breaks down in court over fatal accident

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis faced bipartisan criticism after he stepped in to commute the sentence of a truck driver who killed four people in a fiery crash in 2019 before a judge had a chance to issue a ruling. Critics claimed his actions could set a “troubling precedent”.

Fox News reports that Mr Polis commuted the sentence of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, who was sentenced to 110 years in prison after he was convicted on 27 charges, including four for vehicular homicide.

The sentence sparked backlash, particularly among truck drivers, who claimed the punishment did not fit his crime. Mr Polis stepped in and reduced the sentence to 10 years in prison.

Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King said she would have recommend that his sentence be lowered to 20 to 30 years in prison, according to KMGH-TV.

After Mr Polis intervened, Boulder and Mesa County District Attorneys Michael Dougherty and Daniel Rubenstein penned a letter to the governor accusing him of potentially degrading the institutional stability of the state's justice system.

“That sentence is far too low for someone who kills four people in the appallingly reckless way in which Mr. Aguilera-Mederos chose to do so,” they wrote. “As we look to the future, though, our greatest concern is that you chose to intervene in a pending case, thereby undermining the integrity and confidence that Coloradans place in the justice system.”

According to the DA's, a governor intervening in a pending case is unprecedented.

“To intervene prior to allowing the judge — who heard every witness, saw all the evidence and knew the case better than anyone — to exercise his statutory authority, was unprecedented, premature and unwarranted,” they wrote.

Both did agree with the governor that the 110-year sentence was “too high”.

On Wednesday Mr Polis' office released a statement defending his actions, calling the sentence “bizarre” and that it “undermined confidence in our criminal justice system”. Mr Polis’ office said he used his authority to “step in and fix it”.

While there were calls for Mr Aguilera-Mederos to receive a full pardon, the governor’s office did not feel that was warranted when considering the details of the case.

The accident occurred when the truck driver's brakes failed, sending the 18-wheeler hurtling into more than two dozen stopped vehicles. Four people died. The investigation into the crash revealed that the driver had manipulated his driving records, had noted his brakes were showing signs of malfunction, and that he had disabled safety monitors in his truck. Further, the driver apparently did nothing to warn the other drivers that he had lost control of the his vehicle.

“The individual is guilty and is serving his sentence,” Mr Polis' office said.

“There was clearly an urgency to remedy this sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system. Let the punishment fit the crime is a basic tenant of justice, and Coloradans are relieved to know that the punishment now fits the crime in this case.”

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