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Gov. Polis reduces prison sentence for truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos

By: - December 31, 2021 1:43 pm
Rally for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos

Dozens of people gathered outside the Colorado State Capitol Building on Dec. 22, 2021, to rally in support of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the truck driver sentenced to 110 years in a crash that killed four people. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday reduced the prison sentence of truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos — whose original punishment sparked international outcry — from 110 to 10 years.

Aguilera-Mederos, a 26-year-old Cuban immigrant, was found guilty on 24 counts earlier this month in a fatal crash on Interstate 70 that killed four people in 2019. District Court Judge Bruce Jones said the nature of the charges on which Aguilera-Mederos was convicted prevented him from issuing a shorter sentence, due to stipulations in Colorado law.

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In his clemency letter, Polis, a Democrat, called the 110-year sentence “highly atypical and unjust” and said he hoped it would “spur an important conversation about sentencing laws.” Besides reducing his sentence, the governor’s commutation grants Aguilera-Mederos parole eligibility starting Dec. 30, 2026.

“You were sentenced to 110 years in prison, effectively more than a life sentence, for a tragic but unintentional act,” Polis wrote. “While you are not blameless, your sentence is disproportionate compared with many other inmates in our criminal justice system who committed intentional, premeditated, or violent crimes.”

Latino advocates had asked that Polis commute the entire length of time remaining on Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence — holding it up as an example of racial injustice.

“Today, we believe that Governor Polis took an important first step in reducing Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence from 110-years to ten years in prison,” Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said in a Thursday statement. “LULAC is disappointed that a truck driver is being treated and sentenced as a criminal for what was a tragic traffic accident.”

First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King had asked for a resentencing hearing in the case, which Jones had scheduled for Jan. 13. King had planned to ask for a sentence of 20 to 30 years.

Polis on Thursday also granted parole to Ronald Johnson, who had served more than 20 years of a 96-year sentence for theft, drug possession and forgery; and to Nicholas Wells, who had served more than 10 years of a 48-year sentence for an 11-day crime spree that included burglary, motor vehicle theft and identity theft.

The governor pardoned the following people convicted of various crimes: Travis Cleveland, Anthony Formby, Rudolph Garcia, Stephanie Gssime, Michael Jordan, Timothy Lewis, Reginald McGriff, Henry Moreno, Joseph Murillo, Michael Navarro, Ryan Nguyen, Shawn Phillips, Armando Solano, Mohammed Suleiman and Theresa Yoder.

“Through your role as a volunteer for the Southern Colorado Trail Builders, you have developed opportunities for others to enjoy and learn about the outdoors,” Polis wrote in his letter to Cleveland, who was convicted of second-degree burglary in 2000. “You developed a passion for yoga and gong therapy, which you now share with the Pueblo community. Your friends, family, and colleagues commend your dedication to your own personal growth, your family, and your community.”

Finally, Polis signed an executive order pardoning 1,351 people who’d been convicted of possessing 2 ounces or less of marijuana. Under a law passed earlier this year, Coloradans 21 and older can legally possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana — up from 1 ounce — for recreational use. A 2020 law allowed Polis to issue mass pardons for past marijuana convictions.

“Adults can legally possess marijuana in Colorado, just as they can beer or wine,” Polis said in a Thursday statement. “It’s unfair that 1,351 additional Coloradans had permanent blemishes on their record that interfered with employment, credit, and gun ownership, but today we have fixed that by pardoning their possession of small amounts of marijuana that occurred during the failed prohibition era.”

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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