Client Case Study: Rogel Aguilera-Mederos
Last updated Thursday, October 12th, 2023
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the driver behind the 2019 semi-truck crash on Interstate 70 in Lakewood, resulting in four deaths and numerous injuries, received a 110-year prison sentence from a Jefferson County judge. He was convicted on 27 counts, including vehicular homicide. The crash involved an out-of-control semi-truck colliding with stationary traffic and damaging or destroying 28 vehicles.
In his testimony, he stated that he lost his brakes when he headed down the foothills and crashed into traffic, causing a large fire. According to Lakewood Police Department investigators, no drugs or alcohol were involved.
At sentencing, Bruce Jones, the judge, acknowledged that Aguilera-Mederos didn’t intend to harm anyone, but under the law, his sentence couldn’t be less than 110 years.
Online petition by Denver Legal Team
Leonard A. Martinez, owner and senior partner of Denver Legal Team, stepped in to support Rogel in his fight for a lesser sentence. Leading the charge, Denver Legal Team created a petition that garnered more than five million signatures asking Gov. Jared Polis to grant clemency, or commutation as time served. In a statement, Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney, Leonard Martinez, said the sentence was still not consistent with what other people face for more callous crimes. “We plan to move forward and to keep all options open in achieving Justice for Rogel, including the possibility of clemency from Governor Polis,” Martinez said.
There was a lot of media coverage nationwide and the campaign caught the attention of celebrity activist Kim Kardashian West, who called on Polis to take action.
Governor Polis granted clemency to Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, surprising everyone by doing so two weeks before the judge’s scheduled reconsideration hearing. This act reduced his original sentence by a remarkable 100 years. The governor’s decision was made public as part of his annual clemency actions. As a result, Aguilera-Mederos is eligible for parole on December 30, 2026, just five years from now.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty, a Democrat, and Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, a Republican, jointly penned a letter to the governor, describing his decision as “unprecedented.” Both expressed concerns regarding the “process, timing, and manner” of the commutation, especially considering that the court was actively reviewing the sentence at the time.
The district attorneys both agreed that the initial 110-year sentence appeared excessively harsh. However, they firmly asserted that a 10-year sentence is “unquestionably inadequate for someone whose actions led to the tragic deaths of four individuals through the shockingly reckless manner in which Mr. Aguilera-Mederos acted.” While acknowledging the governor’s authority to commute sentences in ongoing criminal cases, they emphasized that this decision “sets a troubling precedent.”
“Sentences should be influenced by facts and circumstances, not by petitions, online surveys, or tweets,” they added.
Duane Bailey, the brother of a crash victim, expressed his resentment, alleging that Governor Polis prioritized political and social media pressure over the completion of the court proceedings, thereby placing himself above the law. “The governor,” Bailey asserted, “has chosen to prioritize external influences over the well-being of the crash victims.”
The governor’s letter of commutation stated:
“Governor Polis is a problem-solver and when he saw a problem like a bizarre 110-year sentence that undermined confidence in our criminal justice system, he used his legal authority to step in and fix it. Governor Polis has been clear about his thoughtful process and evaluates each clemency application individually, understands the weighty responsibility that comes with each decision, and follows the law in making a decision. The Governor looked at this bizarre sentence and while there were many folks across Colorado and the country that wanted the Governor to do a complete pardon, he did not consider a pardon or full commutation of the sentence and brought the sentence in line with how others have been punished for similar crimes. The individual is guilty and is serving his sentence. There was clearly an urgency to remedy this sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system. Let the punishment fit the crime is a basic tenant of justice, and Coloradans are relieved to know that the punishment now fits the crime in this case.”