Health

US prosecutor seeks rare reduction in trucker’s 110-year sentence in deadly crash

Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King
is asking a judge to re-sentence Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos to a prison term
in the 20-to-30-year range, arguing for greater leniency in a highly publicized
case that prosecutors said lacked criminal intent.

Aguilera-Mederos was found guilty by a jury in
October on four homicide charges and multiple counts of assault and reckless
driving in the April 2019 crash.

District Court Judge Bruce Jones said when
handing down the 110-year sentence on Dec. 13 that he would not have imposed
such a lengthy term but for mandatory minimum penalties required under state
law.

At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that
Aguilera-Mederos, who was hauling a load of lumber, was improperly trained in
driving on mountain roads.

He knew the brakes on his tractor-trailer were
failing but descended the mountains anyway, prosecutors said, bypassing a
runaway truck ramp and crashing into stopped traffic along Interstate 70 west
of Denver when he lost control of the vehicle.

Prosecutors never alleged that
Aguilera-Mederos, 26, a Cuban immigrant with no criminal record, was impaired or
had any criminal intent.

At sentencing, Aguilera-Mederos wept as he
asked for forgiveness and leniency. “I never thought about hurting anyone
in my entire life,” he said.

The case garnered national attention with
nearly 5 million people signing an online petition calling for clemency.

At a hearing on Monday, Jones said it was
virtually without precedent for prosecutors, rather than defense attorneys, to
seek a reduced sentence in such a case. Jones ordered both sides to file briefs
and set another hearing for Jan. 13.

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Defense lawyer James Colgan called King’s move
“disingenuous.”

“Two weeks ago, they (prosecutors) were
perfectly fine with my client getting 110 years until there was a public
outcry,” he told Reuters after Monday’s hearing. “It’s all political.”

At a post-hearing news conference in which she
declined to take questions, King said she consulted with victims’ families and
survivors before urging a lighter sentence.

King said she acted “so the court could
consider an alternative sentence that was not bound by mandatory sentencing
structures.”

Colgan said he was unsure of the ramifications
for future appeals if he were to agree with prosecutors’ motion, so he took no
position at Monday’s hearing.

“This is unprecedented. It’s just never
happened before,” he said.

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