The end of 2021 was a rollercoaster of fate for truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos. He was sentenced to prison for what would have been the rest of his life. Many petitions were filed on his behalf. And then his sentence was reduced to ten years.
But was justice served? Let’s take a look at the story of truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos.
On April 25, 2019, Mederos was behind the wheel of his truck when he drove forward and initiated a fatal crash on Interstate 70 in Colorado. He was hauling lumber, and the traffic ahead of him has slowed due to a different accident.
His truck slammed into the slowed-traffic, and flames from the accident got so hot that they melted the highway. Four people were killed and multiple other people were injured.
Mederos’ Day in Court
When charged and brought to court, Mederos testified that his brakes had failed. Regardless of the brakes, the police said that Mederos has been driving at least 85 mph prior to plowing into the cars ahead of him. This would have been on a part of the highway where the speed limit was 45 mph for CMVs. Mederos’ defense attorney disputed the allegation of speeding.
An additional complication to Mederos’ defense arose when it was alleged that he had driven past a runaway truck ramp.
The Sentence and the Protests
The Jefferson County jury found Mederos guilty of 27 counts, including first-degree assault – a felony. Due to a Colorado mandate that requires charges in certain circumstances to be served consecutively, as opposed to concurrently, Mederos’ back-to-back sentences resulted in a total of 110 years in prison, effectively a life sentence for the accident.
Given the accidental nature of the crash and Mederos’ claim of an equipment failure, many protested his sentence, and not just in the trucking industry. According to NPR, 5 million across the country signed petitions for his sentence to be reduced.
Protests were held outside the state Capitol building in Colorado. Even Kim Kardashian chimed in.
The Sentence Reduced
As a result of public outcry, Governor Polis of Colorado decided to commute the sentence of Mederos to 10 years. Mederos will now also be eligible for parole on December 30, 2026. He may only serve 5 years if granted parole.
In response, the Jefferson County District Attorney prosecuting the case promised to release more info that could harm Mederos, but there is no reason to believe this could change the outcome. At least one survivor of the traumatic crash came out against a reduction of the sentence.
Is This Justice?
On the one hand, Mederos claimed the brakes failed, and no truck driver can control their vehicle in a situation. On the other hand, Mederos missed the runaway truck ramp. And in the grey middle, there is a disputed claim about how fast he was driving.
What happened in 2019 on Interstate 70 was undoubtedly an accident and a tragedy. We may never know the degree to which it was preventable.
The deceased victims of the crash were Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano (24), Doyle Harrison (61), William Bailey (67), and Stanley Poliano (69).