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2 Colorado DAs pen letter to Polis with concerns on I-70 truck driver sentence commutation

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos rally
Posted at 12:44 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 14:53:55-05

DENVER — Two Colorado district attorneys have written a letter to Gov. Jared Polis with concerns on his decision to grant clemency to the semi-truck driver who caused the deadly I-70 crash in 2019.

District attorneys Michael Dougherty, who serves Boulder County, and Daniel Rubinstein, who serves Mesa County, wrote the letter to express “concerns about the process, timing, and manner” of Polis’ decision to reduce Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ 110-year sentence — the mandatory minimum for his 27 guilty charges due to state law — to 10 years.

“That sentence is far too low for someone who kills four people in the appallingly reckless way in which Mr. Rogel Aguilera-Mederos chose to do so,” the letter says.

The First Judicial District Attorney's Office filed a motion to reconsider the sentence in December, and DA Alexis King said she would ask the court to reduce Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence to 20-30 years.

“Our greatest concern is that you chose to intervene in a pending case, thereby undermining the integrity and confidence that Coloradans place in the justice system,” the letter says. “To protect the rights of crime victims, promote fairness and equity in sentencing, and to provide the Governor with accurate and complete information, the commutation of a sentence should be neither granted nor denied until the request for sentence reconsideration is complete.”

Dougherty and Rubinstein said in the letter they agreed the 110-year sentence was too severe but said that a 10-year sentence was too lenient. Some of the victims’ loved ones have previously expressed that they feel the sentence wasn’t fair but that their feelings were being overlooked.

“The right sentence is best determined through the judicial process, where the Court can carefully weigh aggravating and mitigating factors,” the letter says. “Sentences should be influenced by the facts and circumstances, not petitions, on line surveys, or tweets.”

Dougherty and Rubinstein said the Sentencing Reform Task Force, which both serve on, has also been working on “the issues underlying the sentencing options in the Aguilera-Mederos case,” but feared Polis’ decision “will call some of these efforts and collaboration into question.”

A spokesperson for Polis’ office provided the following statement:

“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.“

A Jefferson County jury convicted Aguilera-Mederos guilty on most of the 42 charges against him, including vehicular homicide for causing the deaths of four people when he crashed his semi-truck into stopped traffic in Lakewood.

Aguilera-Mederos’ original sentence sparked outrage across the world, and more than 5 million people signed onto a petition calling for a change to his sentence.

Dougherty and Rubinstein sent the letter to Polis ahead of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council board meeting, which Polis has said he plans to attend, in hopes that it would “facilitate a constructive discussion.”