GOLDEN, Colo. — The sentencing of a Houston trucker following a deadly accident in 2019 is garnering national attention.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years in prison following the fiery crash in Denver which killed 4 people and injured several others.
Millions are now asking for leniency and calling on Colorado’s governor to step in.
It has been more than a week since Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to prison for his role in the deadly crash.
Aguilera-Mederos took responsibility for the crash but said it was not intentional.
“I ask to God too many times why them and not them," he said.
KHOU legal analyst Carmen Roe called the case an anomaly.
She said the case deserves attention because we are seeing the unintended consequences of mandatory minimum sentences.
“In Colorado under the law this is considered a violent offense and so, unlike a lot of the states, we don’t run the sentences concurrently or at the same time. They’re stacked one on top of the other,” Roe said.
She said this is how Aguilera-Mederos ended up with such a harsh sentence.
A Change.org petition asking he receive a reduced sentence or clemency has collected more than 4.6 million signatures.
Big name celebrities like Kim Kardashian are also calling for action saying the Colorado law is unfair and needs to be changed.
Roe said, “That’s the problem with mandatory minimums and this case shines a light on this issues.”
Governor Jared Polis said his legal team is reviewing an application for clemency from Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney.
Roe wants to remind people there are victims and their families still grieving.
She said they should have a chance to let the court know what they think is an appropriate sentence.
“What is justice for any one person is very individual, but in this particular case it has to consider the victims,” Roe said.
A motion to reconsider Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence is scheduled for next week.
Online petition to commute Houston trucker’s sentence
The moves come after an online petition to commute Aguilera-Mederos' sentence or grant him clemency gathered more than 4.6 million signatures. A group also gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol Monday to protest the sentence. Another rally is planned for Wednesday morning at the capitol.
The sentencing has attracted national attention, including from celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, who tweeted about it Tuesday afternoon.
Colgan said he and his team are optimistic going into this next phase of the case.
"Nothing's guaranteed, so, you know, we're hoping that both of them can work out. And so we're keeping our hopes up and we're optimistic about both," he said about the scenarios at play.
He said the speed at which these events have transpired has been a lot on both Aguilera-Mederos and his family.
"This is chaotic. This is -- things are happening by the minute. And so everybody's head is kind of swimming right now, and his family's included. They're not really sure which direction this is going, and it's kind of hard to direct them and let them know where it is headed, because things are changing literally by the hour. And so they remain optimistic as well that this sentence will get reduced at some point. So they're remaining optimistic, but it's chaotic," Colgan said. "I know that he talks to his family. So he's -- I think he feels the same way as his family, which is his head is just spinning right now because it's happening so fast. You know, you get used to the idea you may spend 110 years in prison on Monday. A week later, you're asking the governor to give you clemency and all of the emotions that you can think of that you can experience in that weeklong period of time, that's what's going on with him. So he's not any different than anybody else. You can imagine what it would be like in that chaotic week."
He said both Mederos and his family are appreciative of the support they've received from the public.
"And it's unlike anything I've ever seen, where this kind of public pressure is causing the politicians to question what they did and to try and get out in front of it, like the DA's office is trying to do right now," he said. "It seems like it's been 15 years. It's only been eight days since he was sentenced. But, you know, there's been so much that has happened in that eight days, it seems like 15 years. And so, yes, it's unlike anything I've ever seen in my entire time I've been practicing law."
Colgan also told KUSA-TV in Denver Tuesday that another attorney, Leonard Martinez, has been added to the defense team.
"He's in another firm, but he's--if we pursue an appeal, he's an appellate lawyer. I'll help him with the appeal. I'm a trial lawyer. I'm not an appellate, so," he said.
As of Tuesday night, Colgan appeared unsure of whether Aguilera-Mederos himself would be able to be at the hearing Monday, due to the logistics behind it.
"You have to actually file an official writ of habeas corpus to bring somebody from DOC to the county court. That usually takes anywhere from a week to two weeks work to get through all the red tape, and we're talking a matter of days with the Christmas holiday coming up. It's almost logistically impossible to get him from the Department of Corrections to Jefferson County on the 27th," he said.
Overall, he said, things are moving forward in this case, from his perspective.
"It's moving in the right direction. I don't see any--I don't see us taking any steps backwards," he said.
Houston truck driver sentenced to 110 years in prison
Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years in prison last week for the fiery April 2019 crash, which killed four people and injured several others.
He was extremely emotional as he asked for forgiveness before Judge A. Bruce Jones announced the sentence.
"I know it has been hard and heartbreaking for everyone involved," he said through tears. "I can't sleep. I think all the time about the victims. A part of me will be missing forever, as well."
Aguilera-Mederos said he took responsibility for the crash but said it was not intentional.
"I have never thought about hurting anyone in my entire life," he said.
"I hope to say sorry, sorry for the loss, sorry for the people in here, I know they hurt," Aguilera-Mederos said. "I know they have trauma, I know. I feel that. But please don't be angry with me, please."
A jury in October found him guilty on 27 counts in connection with the crash. The jury had to decide whether the crash resulted from a series of bad choices by the driver or a mechanical failure he had no control over.
Colorado’s mandatory sentencing laws
The case has brought attention to Colorado's mandatory sentencing laws, which experts say played a role in the length of the sentence.
Jones sentenced Aguilera-Mederos to the required 10-year minimum for each of the six counts of first-degree assault with extreme indifference, to be served consecutively. He was also sentenced to the required minimum of five years for each of the 10 counts of attempted first-degree assault with extreme indifference, also to be served consecutively.
The judge said the law required him to order those sentences be served consecutively.
"In all victim impact statements I read, I did not glean from them someone saying, 'He should be in prison for the rest of his life, and he should never, ever get out," Jones said at the sentencing. "Far from it. There was forgiveness reflected in those statements, but also a desire that he be punished and serve time in prison, and I share those sentiments."