Colorado governor changes trucker’s 110-year sentence after public outrage

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Colorado’s Democrat governor has drastically reduced the prison sentence of a truck driver whose alleged negligence and recklessness led to the deaths of four men, and family members of the deceased are now reportedly outraged.

Gov. Jared Polis reduced convicted truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence from 110 years to just 10 years on Thursday after weeks of public outcry and protests from over five million people, including thousands of truckers.

Aguilera-Mederos’ supporters say that the crash that led to the deaths of Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; Doyle Harrison, 61; William “Bill” Bailey, 67; and Stanley Politano, 69, wasn’t his fault, meaning he should be completely freed and let go.

And indeed, even with Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence having been drastically reduced, they’re vowing to continue protesting, with one trucker bluntly telling the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) that the sentence “should be zero.”

In his clemency letter, Polis called Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence “arbitrary and unjust” and praised him for the “personal reflection” he’s displayed, though he stopped well short of declaring the 26-year-old innocent.

“The crimes you were convicted of are serious. Four individuals lost their lives and others were seriously injured because of your bad decisions. The families of these victims will never again have the chance to embrace their lost loved ones. This was a tragic event that affected many Coloradans,” the letter reads.

“Though your actions have caused immense pain, I am encouraged by your personal reflection and the commercial vehicle safety changes that were made in the wake of this tragedy to ensure this type of event never happens again.”

(Source: Google Drive via Gov. Polis’ office)

During Aguilera-Mederos’ trial, his attorneys argued that his brakes had gone out while he was on the interstate, causing him to lose control and eventually crash into dozens of cars that were backed up, causing a devastating explosion and pile-up.

According to the BBC, prosecutors pushed back by arguing that he’d known that “his brakes were failing” and that he’d “dangerously weaved between vehicles” and driven “past at least one runaway truck ramp – long lanes at the side of roads designed for vehicles with brake problems to drive into and stop safely.”

The jury ultimately ruled in favor of the prosecution, declaring him guilty of 27 charges, including four counts of vehicular manslaughter and six counts of first-degree assault.

“I respect my family, and I respect myself, I respect the people who believe in me that I’m not a criminal,” Aguilera-Mederos tearfully said in court moments afterward.

“I want to say sorry. Sorry for the loss, for the people injured. I know they have trauma, I know, I feel that. But please, don’t be angry with me…I was working hard for a better future for my family. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life.”

Listen:

The judge subsequently hit him with a sentence so beyond expectation that even the family members of the four men who died were stunned.

“Nobody wants him to spend the rest of his life in jail,” Duane Bailey, the older brother of Bill Bailey, told Denver station KMGH.

“We did not hear that number until minutes before he walked in the courtroom on sentencing day. They had been telling us 50 to 60 years, honestly beforehand, and I thought that was too long, even then.”

Nevertheless, he and other family members are not happy with how the matter has played out publicly and with how Aguilera-Mederos has become some sort of martyr.

“It’s turned the point where people think he’s the victim now, and it’s not. He’s not the victim. This crash killed four people and four good people,” he said.

The facts, he argued, back him up.

“He [Aguilera-Mederos] misrepresented on his application to the company his experience. He exaggerated his job titles. … He drove his car so hard, by the time he got to Berthoud Pass, 30 miles from the crash site, his brakes were already smoking,” Bailey told KMGH.

“Yet, he still drives above the speed limit. There’s people on I-70 who talk about how they passed him at a high-rate of speed. He’s testified he’s panicked. Who wouldn’t be? But, he put himself in that position. It wasn’t an accident.”

Family members are also displeased with Polis’ involvement in the case. According to Bailey, the judge had been scheduled to reconsider the sentence on Jan. 13th, when the prosecution was expected to ask for 20 to 30 years.

But instead Polis caved to political pressure and wound up giving Aguilera-Mederos what the family members appear to feel is too light of a sentence. Though this clearly isn’t a popular view, it’s not necessarily unique to just them.

Case in point:

“Are we going to allow the political pressure and social media to start defining our judicial systems? I think that’s an extremely dangerous precedent set,” Bailey asked in exasperation to KMGH.

Especially when the public is so clueless.

“Since the sentencing date, when all the social media stuff has come back up, has been extremely hard. In fact, you know, without getting too emotional, it kind of ruined our Christmas,” he explained.

“To try to fight something emotionally like that, that is so close to you, and having so many people who have no idea what they’re talking about taking over the narrative was very painful.”

Sadly, America has in recent decades turned into a country where only the narrative ever seems to matter. From both the public and the media’s treatment of Nick Sandmann to Kyle Rittenhouse to now Aguilera-Mederos, the truth just doesn’t seem relevant …

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Vivek Saxena

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