DENVER (KDVR) — While millions have signed a petition urging clemency for the trucker in a fiery crash on Interstate 70 which killed four people, surviving victims are speaking about the crash from their perspective.
Several victims of the crash and family members spoke with FOX31 on Thursday morning. Together, they criticized coverage of the calls for clemency as attention has grown nationwide. They feel details revealed at the trial are not getting the same attention, and that those details led to the 110-year sentence for truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos.
The victims who spoke on Thursday said Aguilera-Mederos should serve time, but they knew he was going to appeal for a reduction in his sentence. They believe the governor should not get involved and should let the legal process play out.
Perspective of the victims
William (Bill) Bailey, a 67-year-old from Arvada, died in the crash. Bailey’s brother, Duane, said the length of the sentence was unexpected.
“None of us expected or wanted him to spend 110 years in jail,” Duane Bailey said. “It was an act of negligence and not caring by the driver.”
Bill Bailey’s wife, Gage Evans, said the victims understand the mandatory minimum sentencing law.
“I recognize that the 110-year sentence is a math thing that the judge had to do to comply with the minimum sentencing law. It doesn’t make sense for him to serve 110. We are looking for him to serve time but not that much,” Evans said.
A truck driver who was involved in the crash said Aguilera-Mederos was very reckless and irresponsible. “It’s not an easy job and we’re held to a higher standard. He needs to serve time. You’re responsible for your own vehicle as a truck driver,” Gregorio Salinas said. “He was basically playing with fire and he got burned.”
“I didn’t give the sentence too much thought,” Salinas said. “The DA said the driver was going to appeal to get a reduced sentence… It’s up to the judge and DA to change his sentence, not Governor Polis.”
Anita Bailey, the sister of William Bailey who was killed in the crash, also believes Aguilera-Mederos needs to serve time.
“He’s got to serve something. I’d be happy with 20 or 30 straight years but nothing more or less than that,” shared Anita Bailey.
Leslie Maddox Ross said she was in the first car hit at full speed and she suffered severe injuries that she’s still dealing with to this day.
“The minute I heard, I was quite shocked about the time. But I know there are mechanisms in place in the legal process for him to get his sentence reduced.” Maddox Ross shared. “He needs to serve time and people need to know the facts.”
“I just really wish this wasn’t happening again, especially during the holidays.” Maddox Ross shared.
Facts of the case
Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 consecutive years in prison on Dec. 19 for the crash. He was driving the 18-wheeler loaded with lumber when he crashed into more than two dozen stopped vehicles and four semitrailers in Lakewood.
Prosecutors say during the trial he barreled eastbound down the interstate from the mountains at speeds of up to 85 miles per hour, passing four runaway truck ramps prior to the crash. His truck swerved at times, forcing other drivers off the road. Aguilera-Mederos said the truck’s brakes had failed and he lost control.
He was convicted by a Jefferson County jury of four counts of vehicular homicide and 23 other charges, including:
- Six counts of Assault in the First Degree – Extreme Indifference
- 10 counts of Attempt to Commit Assault in the First Degree – Extreme Indifference
- Two counts of Vehicular Assault – Reckless
- One count of Reckless Driving
- Four counts of Careless Driving Causing Death
The First Judicial District attorney has filed a motion for the court to hear a reconsideration of Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence. The office of Gov. Jared Polis is also reviewing a clemency application.
Response to Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence
Earlier this week, FOX31 spoke to a crash witness who said Aguilera-Mederos asked to use her cell phone to call a friend and get away from the scene. From what she saw and heard, she said she thinks Aguilera-Mederos should serve the 110 years to which he was sentenced by the jury, or at least half.
Darin Barton, a man known as a hero among FOX31 viewers for his actions on the day of the crash said he believes 110 years is too long. “Does he need to face punishment for it, most definitely. Four people lost their lives, of course he does. But 110 years, that’s just way too much,” Barton said.
Barton said he sent an email to Gov. Jared Polis, who is reviewing a commutation request for Aguilera-Mederos.
Oslaida Mederos, Aguilera-Mederos’ mom, argued the punishment is fit for someone with the intention to kill. She said the crash was an accident and her son doesn’t have the heart to hurt anyone.
The League of United Latin American Citizens met with Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday morning to discuss clemency for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos. LULAC asked Governor Polis to grant clemency based upon the time already served and commute his sentence.