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Why millions are petitioning against a truck driver's 110-year prison sentence

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to more than a century in prison, which has led to an outcry among people seeking to modify the sentence.
/ Source: TODAY

Calls are growing to change the 110-year prison sentence handed down to a truck driver who caused a fatal crash near Denver in 2019.

Because of Colorado laws that necessitate sentences for certain crimes to be served consecutively or back to back, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was sentenced to 110 years, after he was found guilty of 27 counts by a jury in October. There has been considerable backlash, with more than 4.6 million people signing an online petition asking Gov. Jared Polis to grant clemency or commute the sentence.

Various groups and activists will convene at the state Capitol Wednesday to urge Polis to reduce Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence as soon as possible and a district attorney in the state is seeking a hearing to determine if the sentence should remain intact.

The accident affected 28 vehicles and killed four people, Doyle Harrison, 61; William Bailey, 67; Stanley Politano, 69; and Miguel Lamas Arrellano, 24. Aguilera-Mederos said his brakes failed, but prosecutors said he should have taken precautions to avoid the crash, including going on a truck ramp.

Aguilera-Mederos said in court last week that he is devastated over what happened.

“I would have preferred God taken me, instead of them,” he said while fighting back tears.

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.
Workers clear debris from Interstate 70 on April 26, 2019, in Lakewood, Colorado, after the deadly pileup involving Rogel Aguilera-Mederos' truck.David Zalubowski / AP file

Aguilera-Mederos was found guilty of 27 counts in October and during his sentencing, the judge pointed to state law that specifies each count be served consecutively instead of concurrently, resulting in the lengthy sentence that even he felt may have been too harsh.

“If I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” Judge A. Bruce Jones said.

The case has caught the attention of millions of people, including celebrities like Kim Kardashian West, who believe the sentence is too severe. Even families of the victims have spoken out in favor of altering it.

“I don’t get to have my dad for the rest of my life, but I hope the defendant’s son can have his dad for the rest of his life,” one woman said in court.

A spokesperson for Gov. Polis says his legal team is reviewing the case and the office will make an announcement once they decide on a course of action.