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The judge presiding over the case of the infamous truck driver who was sentenced to 110 years in prison isn’t pleased by Gov. Jared Polis’ decision late last month to cut the sentence down to 10 years via executive fiat.
By doing so, Polis essentially voided Jefferson County District Court Judge Bruce Jones’s authority, and he did so despite Jones having planned to reduce the sentence himself during a scheduled Jan. 13th re-sentencing hearing.
With the governor having preempted Jones, a re-sentencing hearing is no longer needed. And so on Tuesday, the judge issued an order vacating the sentence. But in the order, he also included a clear-cut swipe at the governor.
“While the Court has not received a formal notification, news reports confirm that the Governor commuted Defendant’s sentence to ten years in the Department of Corrections. The court respects the authority of the Governor to do so. Based on the timing of the decision, however, it appears this respect is not mutual,” the order reads.
“The Court again extends its condolences to the families of those who died, to those who were injured, and to all were traumatized because of the events on I-70 on April 25, 2019.”
According to Denver station KDVR, this is the second time in the case that Judge Jones’ hands have basically been tied behind his back.
“When Jones sentenced Aguilera-Mederos to 110 years in prison on Dec. 13, he made it no secret that he didn’t like the sentence, but he said that his hands were tied by the Colorado legislature when it passed mandatory minimum sentences on certain counts,” the station notes.
“Now, with Polis commuting the sentence to 10 years, the trial judge has once again been given no discretion to make a sentencing decision and was forced to vacate the hearing.”
As previously reported, around mid-December suspect Rogel Aguilera-Medros, 26, was sentenced to 110 years in prison because of a 2019 crash that prosecutors had argued was the result of his negligence and recklessness.
The sentence triggered public outcry and protests from both those who argued that the crash wasn’t Aguilera-Mederos’ fault and those who said that even if he’d played a role in the crash, the sentence was still too heavy-handed.
Included among the latter were family members of the deceased.
“Nobody wants him to spend the rest of his life in jail,” Duane Bailey, the older brother of victim Bill Bailey, explained to local media at the time.
And so family members like Bailey rallied in support of a lighter sentence, prompting prosecutors to request a re-scheduling hearing for Jan. 13th.
However, the governor preempted them by issuing a clemency letter on Dec. 30th unilaterally reducing the sentence to 10 years. Family members weren’t pleased, with Bailey saying at the time that it felt as if Polis had caved to “political pressure and social media.”
Colorado governor changes trucker’s 110-year sentence after public outrage https://t.co/8K0IGohHoZ
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) January 2, 2022
Speaking with KDVR following Jones’ decision Tuesday, Bailey noted that it appears the judge agrees with him and other family members of the deceased.
“That’s a pretty bold statement for a judge to make. Surprised honestly, because for a judge to make a comment like that on the record is pretty rare. That’s a big statement by him stating that he was just as displeased with the governor as we were,” he said.
And indeed, Jones isn’t alone. The prosecutor in the case, Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King, has been just as outspoken in her opposition to Polis.
“We are disappointed in the Governor’s decision to act prematurely. I joined the surviving victims and families of those who lost their loved ones in their wish to have the trial judge determine an appropriate sentence in this case, as he heard the facts and evidence of the defendant’s destructive conduct that led to death, injury and devastating destruction,” she said in a statement after the governor’s order was issued last month.
An “appropriate sentence,” Bailey said to KDVR, would have been at least 20 years given Aguilera-Mederos’ culpability in the crash.
During his 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.
But 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.”
Bailey and other family members had agreed with the prosecution’s argument.
“This was not an accident. It was a series of decisions on the part of the driver that caused [four] deaths. The jury heard the evidence and convicted him,” he said earlier in the week to Denver station KCNC.
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) January 3, 2022
He added at the time that Polis is a “despicable human being.”
FYI, Polis is a Democrat …
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