Millions of Americans have signed a petition asking the court to rethink the 110-year sentence given to a (at the time) 23-year-old whose brakes malfunctioned while driving in Colorado which caused a deadly pileup.
The death count was terrible and the injuries have been no doubt awful to have to live with. However, the outrage is stemming from the fact that the perpetrator, Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, was minding his business and he was not the owner of the company vehicle that plowed into numerous people, causing the death toll that has offered him a triple-digit sentence.
The now 25-year-old was sentenced last Monday to 110 consecutive years in prison after he was found guilty on 27 counts in the 2019 crash that killed four people and injured others.
“Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23 has nothing on his driving record, or on his criminal history. He had complied with every single request by the Jefferson County courts, and investigators on the case. He’s [sic] passed all of the drug and alcohol tests that were given including a chemical test. This accident was not intentional, nor was it a criminal act on the drivers [sic] part,” a petition on Change.org with more than 4.5 million signatures reads.
It was Colorado District Judge A. Bruce Jones that said during the Monday hearing that he was bound by the state’s mandatory-minimum sentencing to make the sentence as massive as was handed down in the case.
At the time of the accident, investigators at the crash scene found that Aguilera-Mederos, who was driving a semi-truck, lost control after his brakes failed on a highway near Denver, and the truck failed to take the runaway truck ramps as he careened toward the people going 85 miles per hour. He slammed into dozens of cars that were stopped, which prompted an explosion.
Prosecutors made the argument that Aguilera-Mederos could have used several runaway ramps before the crash but instead made a “bunch of bad decisions.”
Over time, as the information has come in, some of us have toggled between two different opinions. One, being the idea that Rogel could have been on his phone, not paying attention and causing the fiery scene, resulting in the death of four innocent commuters. Two, being this poor man, driving a company truck is about to go down for life due to lack of maintenance beyond his control.
“I am not a criminal,” he said at his sentencing while tearing up. “I am not a murderer. I am not a killer. When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life.”
Truckers are now protesting driving through the state of Colorado, saying that more protests are planned in the coming weeks, as they and civil rights groups are calling for either a reduced sentence for the recently convicted Aguilera-Mederos, or an all-out pardon for the 20-something trucker trying to make a living wage when his equipment failed.
Support has poured in from all sides, including a TikTok video with more than 4 million views, which called on truck drivers to join them in an effort to protest Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence.
“This truck is no longer going to Colorado. We want justice for Rogel Aguilera. Truckers, he needs our help,” one user @ntgi2020 and a top comment reads: “I am a trucker and will NO LONGER be going to Colorado.” The national president of the United Latin American Citizens Domingo Garcia said the civil rights group sent a letter to Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis asking for a pardon or reduced sentencing with Garcia calling it “an egregious miscarriage of justice.”
“He got 110 years in prison on his first offense when it was clearly an accident,” Garcia said. “It could happen to anybody. Your brakes go out. It was not intentional. It’s not something that he was trying to do.”
Now, we have to wait to see if the justice system can pardon an innocent man.