Jan. 2, 2022 UPDATE:
Governor Jared Polis reduced the sentence from 110 years to 10 years following a massive show of support for the former truck driver after more than five million people signed a petition asking for a shorter sentence/clemency for Aguilera-Mederos.
“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,” the governor wrote in a letter to Aguilera-Mederos.
Last week, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was sentenced to 110 years in prison for the death of four people in Denver in 2019 after his brakes stopped working sparking outrage for the length sentencing. A Cuban immigrant and truck driver, Aguilera-Mederos was driving along the freeway at 85 mph when he experienced sudden brake failure, plowing into vehicles at a standstill from another accident and causing a multi-car pileup behind him. Four deaths were reported, including Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, William Bailey, 67, Doyle Harrison, 61, and Stanley Politano, 69. In October 2021, Aguilera-Mederos was found guilty under 24 charges, including vehicular homicide. His 110-year prison time is based on minimum sentencing laws, which means the charges have to be served consecutively rather than simultaneously, according to The Guardian.
The case has now become yet another example of the failures of the U.S. justice system for many because of the obscene length of Aguilera-Mederos’s sentence.
“It is a stark miscarriage of justice,” said Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, according to ABC7. “Here’s a man with no prior criminal record who went to work to feed his family. The brakes go out on his truck. It was a terrible accident. He’s given 110 years for the first crime he’s ever committed, a crime that was not intentional.”
Even Bruce Jones, the judge who presided over the case, agreed, “I will state that if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence.”
Since the ruling, online activists have begun pointing to other cases like Ethan Couch, a white American who, at 16, killed four people and injured nine while driving under the influence in 2013. @BrownIssues, a social activism account, posted that Couch “was only given 10 years probation, & then 720 days in jail for violating his probation. Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced 110 years for an accident killing 4 because his brakes failed.” FlowersinSpanish, another social activism account, voice their support for Aguilera-Mederos saying “it was an accident.”
According to The New York Times, Couch was only a minor at the time of the accident, which is why he was able to avoid lengthy prison time. But others aren’t so convinced, especially when comparing his case with Aguilera-Mederos’s. Because of Couch’s family’s wealth, easier access to private therapy, and of course, white privilege, the lack of justice and equal treatment to all, regardless of skin color, has become ever more obvious.
“The issue with this appeal will not be the sentence itself. Under the law, the Court was not incorrect,” James Colgan, Aguilera-Mederos’s attorney, said to CNN. “However, the law, as written, is barbaric and Draconian. There needs to be a change in the law.”
In reaction to his sentence, Aguilera-Medero apologized to the families of the victims and said, “I am not a murderer. I am not a killer. When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life.”
Aguilera-Medero’s attorneys intend to appeal the sentence in 2022.