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‘Like losing my brother all over again’: Colorado crash victim’s brother on social media reaction, truck driver’s clemency

Victims’ families asked Gov. Jared Polis not to act prior to a new sentencing hearing, said the younger brother of Bill Bailey, who died in the crash.
/ Source: NBC News

The brother of a man who was killed in the Colorado crash that left four dead is speaking out after Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday commuted a truck driver’s 110-year prison sentence to 10 years, objecting to how Polis “put himself in the middle” and calling social media reaction to the crash “frustrating.”

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was sentenced last month to more than a century behind bars for the fatal crash on Interstate 70 eastbound outside Denver on April 25, 2019. The sentence gained national attention for its severity and even the district attorney whose office prosecuted the case sought to have it reduced.

Bill Bailey, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61; Stanley Politano, 69; and Miguel Lamas Arrellano, 24, died in the crash.

Prosecutors told victims and their families on the day of Aguilera-Mederos’ initial sentencing that they would advocate for a reduced sentencing of 20 to 30 years, Duane Bailey, younger brother of Bill Bailey, told NBC News on Monday.

But Polis intervened before a new sentencing hearing, scheduled for Jan. 13, could be held.

“The governor said he did this to restore faith in the judicial system,” Bailey said. ‘To me that proves he did not have faith in the judicial system. Because if you had faith in the judicial system, he would allow the hearing take place and let the judge set the sentence.”

According to Bailey, who said he did not agree with the 110-year term, crash victims and their family members were on a call with Polis the day of his clemency announcement last week.

They also spoke to Polis the week prior to that, asking him to wait for the Jan. 13 hearing, he said.

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos.
Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos.KUSA

“We felt like that was the problem,” Bailey said. “That was the biggest complaint, was that he felt the need to put himself in the middle of it while the court system was going on.”

Bailey said that while the governor had the legal right to offer clemency, it was not appropriate of Polis to circumvent the process that was already taking place.

Polis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors presented evidence in the nearly two-week trial that Aguilera-Mederos was acting recklessly while driving a truck with a trailer carrying lumber. He was traveling an estimated 85 mph in an area where the speed limit for commercial vehicles is 45 mph, officials have said.

Aguilera-Mederos then made a series of bad decisions, prosecutors argued, including his failure to use a runaway truck ramp on the highway and veering into traffic instead.

A chain-reaction crash and a fire ensued involving 28 vehicles.

The weeks since Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced Dec. 13 on 27 charges, including four counts of vehicular manslaughter, have been about as hard as the first two days after Bailey’s brother died, he said.

As many were advocating for Aguilera-Mederos’ 110-year sentence to be reduced, inaccurate information about the crash circulated online, Bailey said. He mentioned an online petition, which was signed by 5 million people and said that the crash was not a criminal act on the driver’s part.

“There is massive amounts of evidence that proves not the intent of the crime, but the amount of reckless carelessness by the driver that caused this,” Bailey said. “And nobody is saying he did it intentionally, but this was not something that just happened to him.”

Interstate 70 wreck,interstate 70 wreck
Workers clear debris from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 on April 26, 2019, in Lakewood, Colo., after a deadly pileup involving a semi-truck hauling lumber.David Zalubowski / AP

It’s been difficult, Bailey said, to see people on social media, including Kim Kardashian, call the fatal crash an accident when criminal acts clearly occurred.

“It’s been so frustrating,” Bailey said. “I, several times, try to correct information on there. And some listen, some don’t... it’s like losing my brother all over again.”

Bailey also blamed the news media for failing to provide more context, saying that outlets had full access to the trial but that so many “missed so much.”

He says doesn’t know how to combat a society that shares a post they see online without doing further fact checking, but that it’s been hard to see his brother’s story lost as Aguilera-Mederos has been made out to be a victim.

Bailey added that he’d been to nearly every day of the trial, that he listened to the victim impact statements, and that even though four people died, thousands were impacted.

“I don’t seek this out. I lost my brother,” Bailey said. “I just want people to understand what that’s like, and that you need to understand the facts of the case before you start talking about it.”

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