DENVER — A hearing was set for Thursday to discuss resentencing options for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the semi-truck driver originally sentenced to 110 years in prison for causing a crash on I-70 that killed four people and injured others, however in the middle of a chaotic week in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis reduced the sentence to 10 years.
Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, Doyle Harrison, 61, William "Bill" Bailey, 67, and Stanley Politano, 69, died as a result of the crash on April 25, 2019.
The prosecution was planning to ask for a sentence in the 20- to 30-year range, but the hearing was canceled because of the governor's decision.
The judge in the case, Bruce Jones, was not pleased with the governor stepping in before the court's process concluded. In Judge Jones' order vacating the hearing, he said there was never a formal notification from Polis' office regarding the reduced sentence. Instead, the court learned about the new 10-year sentence through news reports.
Judge Jones continued, writing that the court respects the governor's authority to commute the sentence, but "based on the timing of the decision, however, it appears this respect is not mutual."
Polis' office provided Denver7 with a statement in response to the judge's order.
“The judge was forced to give a 110 year sentence due to mandatory sentencing requirements. This individual is guilty and he will go to jail just as others who have committed similar crimes were punished. A 110-year punishment was totally different than what others who committed similar crimes received, and 10 years is consistent with how other similar crimes were punished. There was an urgency to remedy this sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system.”
The First Judicial District released thousands of pages of evidence and hundreds of pictures related to the case, which were presented to the jury during the trial.
Denver7's Colette Bordelon reviewed the evidence, and summarized key points found within it.
One of the videos contained in the evidence is from a Colorado State Trooper's dash cam, showing Aguilera-Mederos' semi-truck speeding by in the shoulder. Then, on the horizon, a giant plume of black smoke fills the sky.
In another video, from before the crash, the semi-truck is captured with smoke flying behind it. During an interview with investigators, Aguilera-Mederos said he never saw the smoke.
"Because if it is smoking, how am I going to continue driving? I mean, no, it is not, like, it is not logical," Aguilera-Mederos said through a translator.
Aguilera-Mederos obtained his Commercial Driver's License (CDL) in Texas, and said he had it for 11 months prior to the crash. He had his permit for six months before the actual CDL.
He told investigators it was not his first time driving through the Colorado mountains. Aguilera-Mederos stated he had probably driven through Colorado three times before the crash, and maybe more while employed with a different company. He also said he saw the runaway ramp signs, but not the actual ramp.
Aguilera-Mederos also claimed everything in the semi-truck was new and working well, saying the company has their own mechanic who checks the trucks before any trip.
Right before the crash, Aguilera-Mederos told investigators the semi-truck was going around 85 miles per hour, and that he thought he would die.
Those with the Colorado State Patrol wrote in a report that there was no possibility of inspecting the semi-truck, because it was too badly burned.
Many of the images contained in the evidence file show what investigators found following the crash. The above picture shows Bill Bailey's car keys, which had burned into the ignition.
Denver7 spoke with some of Bailey's family members, who felt like the evidence presented in trial was lost in the swarm of social media posts and protests calling for a lighter sentence. Bailey's younger brother, Duane, wants to ensure the victims in this case are remembered for who they were, and not the crash that took their lives.
“He was such a good person. The smartest person I know. I mean, I don't even hold a candle to him. Funny. He wrote poetry. He's great at trivia. I just, I feel sorry that his life has been minimized to the point where nobody even seems to care anymore. Or at least, that's the impression we're getting," Duane said.
Duane said he is disappointed in the new, 10-year sentence for Aguilera-Mederos. He would have preferred 20 years, but said he would have been open to any time decided by Judge Jones. Duane said since Judge Jones heard all of the evidence presented during the trial, he understood the case better than the governor.