DENVER (KDVR) — More than 3.4 million people have signed a petition calling for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos to receive clemency or have his sentence shortened.
Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years in prison earlier this week in a 2019 crash on Interstate 70 that killed four people.
He said the crash was unintentional, but because people were killed after he crashed his big rig into them, it was ruled a crime of violence, carrying a hefty penalty in Colorado.
“The defendant, however, did not intend to kill anyone, did not to harm anyone. He’s not charged with either of those things and yet he’s got, in effect, a life sentence,” said Ian Farrell, associate professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.
A judge in Jefferson County handed down a 110-year sentence to Aguilera-Mederos Monday. Experts said because of Colorado law, the accidental killings forced the judge to hit the driver with the hefty sentence – basically condemning him to die behind bars.
“There are these things called sentence enhancers in Colorado,” Farrell said. “And so, if you commit a crime of violence then these sentence enhancers apply. A crime of violence is defined as any offense in which someone is either killed or dies or has serious bodily injury.”
Aguilera-Mederos was found guilty on more than 20 charges.
“If you commit a crime of violence then the sentences for multiple offenses are served consecutively rather than concurrently, i.e. all at the same time,” Farrell said.
Some advocating for the rights of working families say the sentencing is putting a spotlight on an issue the state needs to address.
“The judge’s hands were completely tied in the sentencing ultimately,” said Wendy Howell, state director of the Colorado Working Families Party. “And that’s not OK. We need to absolutely look at sentencing reform. We need to look at these bad mandatory minimums laws that over-criminalize people and don’t give judges the discretion they need.”
Lawmakers here have been mum on the sentencing and mandatory minimum reform so far but they the calls for change are growing louder every hour.