Colorado’s Democratic Governor, Jared Polis, has stepped in to address a criminal case in the state that has generated significant media attention recently. Polis took executive action to dramatically reduce the 110-year prison sentence imposed on a man following a crash in 2019 that killed four and injured several others. Polis reduced the sentence to 10 years.
Jefferson County District Judge Bruce Jones sentenced Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos to the mandatory minimum sentence required under the state law after he was convicted by the jury on each count he was charged with. The judge noted that he would not have imposed such a lengthy sentence under the facts of the case if he were granted any discretion in the matter.
At trial, Aguilera-Mederos testified on his behalf and said that the brakes failed on the semi-truck and trailer he was driving downhill just before the wreck. Prosecutors argued at trial that the driver could have used a runaway truck ramp on the side of the highway to avoid the collision. Various reporting indicated that the driver passed at least one such ramp, and perhaps several.
Polis wrote a letter to the driver advising him that he was granting his request for a commutation of his sentence. The governor referred to the sentence as “highly atypical and unjust” and suggested that he was commuting to 10 years with parole eligibility on December 30, 2026.
Polis told the driver that he was sentenced to “effectively more than” a life sentence for a “tragic but unintentional act.” The governor wrote that he did not believe Aguilera-Mederos was blameless. Still, the verdict is “disproportionate” to those imposed in the state’s criminal justice system for those guilty of deliberate and violent crimes.
The governor remarked that the sentence imposed because of mandatory minimum requirements points out the “lack of uniformity” for sentencing different crimes. He added that he hoped the case would lead to a legislative conversation about sentencing laws. Still, he felt it was necessary to commute the sentence imposed because any later changes would not apply to the driver.