Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the truck driver originally sentenced to 110 years in prison for his role in causing a fiery 28-car crash in Jefferson County, could get a shorter sentence.
During a scheduling conference Monday, District Court Judge Bruce Jones set a resentencing hearing for Jan. 13, at the request of 1st Judicial District Attorney Alexis King. King plans to ask for a new sentence of 20 to 30 years, she said.
Still, Jones expressed some trepidation about the prospect of a resentencing hearing before the case could be appealed. Aguilera-Mederos’ lawyers have 149 days to file an appeal, he said, which they haven’t done yet.
“The idea of me prospectively modifying a sentence and then the case being up on appeal is troubling to me,” Jones said during the scheduling conference, held virtually via the WebEx videoconferencing application.
Aguilera-Mederos was found guilty of 24 charges in the April 25, 2019, crash that killed four people on Interstate 70. The 26-year-old Cuban immigrant was not charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; rather, his brakes failed on the high-country route, according to testimony he later gave investigators.
The sentence sparked an international outcry and led more than 4.9 million people, and counting, to sign a Change.org petition calling on Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to grant Aguilera-Mederos clemency or commute his sentence.
“We received Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ application and our legal team is currently reviewing it,” a spokesperson for Polis told Newsline in a Dec. 22 email. “Once we reach a decision, we will make an announcement.”
Jones said during the original Dec. 16 sentencing hearing that Colorado law left him no choice but to deliver the 110-year sentence, due to requirements that sentences for “crimes of violence” run consecutively. According to Jones’ interpretation of the law, that was the minimum amount of prison time he could assign to Aguilera-Mederos.
During the scheduling conference Monday, Jones asked Aguilera-Menderos’ lawyers to submit a memo expressing what they would like to see as far as a new sentence. He also asked for Aguilera-Menderos to be present at the resentencing hearing, along with any victims who wished to testify. However, he added, the victims would not be obligated to testify.
Jones said the hearing would be held in person in Jefferson County.
“(Virtual hearings are) fine for opening up our courts to make them as public as possible so other folks can see what’s happening, but they do not in any way capture the feelings that you get in an in-person hearing, and I think that’s important,” Jones said.
Before the hearing ended, King began to lay out her position on a potential new sentence, asking for “20 to 30 years when the court is ready to reconsider.”
“This was not an accident, Judge,” she continued. “As we heard and as the jury heard —”
At that point, Jones interrupted King, telling her to say that in a press release instead.
“This is a scheduling hearing,” Jones said. “That sort of stuff that you’re saying is exactly the sort of stuff that you ought to be saying” with Aguilera-Menderos on the line, he added.
“I appreciate you running your courtroom, Judge,” King replied.
This article first appeared in Colorado Newsline, which is is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence.