DENVER — A social media post by a prosecutor who worked on the 2019 fiery I-70 crash that killed four people is creating some controversy amid uproar over the trucker's 110-year prison sentence handed down last week.
Kayla Wildeman, a deputy district attorney with the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office, posted on her personal Facebook page a photo of a brake shoe from a semitrailer with the case number and her name printed on a placard affixed to the brake.
The copy accompanying the undated photo reads: “Get yourself a trial partner as great as Trevor Moritzky. He turned a brake shoe from a semi-truck into a memento. What a special gift from truly a special person. I never asked for a new bff at work, let alone one that is old enough to be my father (no offense) but I sure am grateful this trial brought you into my career as both a colleague and a friend! Words will never convey how lucky I am to have gotten the opportunity to learn from you!”
Moritzky is the senior deputy district attorney who worked with Wildeman in the prosecution of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the 26-year-old truck driver who told police he lost control of his semi’s brakes coming down the mountain on I-70 and crashed into traffic at the Colorado Mills Parkway overpass, killing four people and injuring six.
On Oct. 15, a jury convicted Aguilera-Mederos, on many of the 42 counts he faced, including vehicular homicide, first-degree assault, attempted first-degree assault, reckless driving and careless driving. On Dec. 13, Judge A. Bruce Jones sentenced him to 110 years in prison, which is the minimum allowed by Colorado’s minimum sentencing laws pertaining to the specific charges of which he was convicted.
Days after sentencing, uproar over the 110-year prison stint began to grow online. More than 4.4 million people signed a change.org petition calling for his sentence to be commuted or the governor to issue a pardon, saying the crash was a tragedy but the sentencing is unfair.
In a statement released Monday, First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King said Wildeman’s post was in “very poor taste," but King confirmed the brake was not from Aguilera-Mederos’ case.
“It is not a piece of evidence from the case. The post was in very poor taste and does not reflect the values of my administration. We have addressed it internally,” King wrote.
LULAC, a Latino civil rights organization that has been vocal about the case, called for "immediate disciplinary action and a formal apology" for the trophy.
“To say we are disgusted over this so-called trophy is an understatement. LULAC demands a full investigation into the matter to identify the people who are involved so that they face the maximum disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal," said Domingo Garcia, LULAC national president. "To mock the seriousness of this case diminishes the loss of four lives as well as the pain suffered by everyone affected by this tragedy. This trophy is evidence of the total lack of respect and basic human decency by the district attorney and her team in this matter. They are dancing on the graves of the victims and showing their glee that a man faces a sentence equal to three generations in an unjust verdict. Professionalism is clearly lacking in this District Attorney's office.”
Aguilera-Mederos' attorney also called for disciplinary action for the people involved in the incident.
“To make any kind of mockery or behave as if this was a ball game of winning and losing is an outrage. This was about four people losing their lives and another person facing the prospect of a 110-year prison sentence," said Leonard Martinez, Aguilera-Mederos' attorney. "It is very disappointing but not surprising that the district attorney in this case would allow this to happen given the background of this matter, the legal process itself and the way my client was treated."
The post has been removed or is no longer viewable by the public.
Gov. Jared Polis has discretion on a possible commutation. Legal groups are preparing a petition to send to his office. Representatives with the governor's office said in a statement they "welcome an application from Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos and will expedite consideration but have not received one yet at this time."
Organizers have also planned a rally at the Colorado Capitol building on Wednesday calling for him to be let free.
Denver7 reporter Sloan Dickey contributed to this report.