Four people were killed in 2019 when a trucker lost his brakes on a steep mountain grade.

Four people were killed in 2019 when a trucker lost his brakes on a steep mountain grade.

Photo: Screen capture

A truck driver whose 110-year sentence following a fatal mountain crash prompted a national outcry has had his sentence cut to 10 years by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was sentenced to 110 years in prison for his April 2019 actions resulting in a pileup on Interstate 70 that left four people dead. The crash occurred on a part of the interstate where commercial vehicles are limited to 45 mph because of the steep descent. Aguilera-Mederos has said his brakes failed.

He was convicted earlier this year on 27 charges, including four counts of vehicular homicide. Under Colorado law, prosecutors only had to prove that he acted recklessly in ignoring the 45-mph limit and blowing right by a runaway truck ramp. The judge in the case said the extreme sentence was the result of Colorado sentencing guidelines requiring sentences to be served consecutively.

The sentence quickly gained national attention, with millions signing a petition asking the governor to grant clemency and truckers threatening boycotts of the state on social media. In an unusual step, the prosecutors had petitioned the judge to reconsider and asked for a 20- to 30-year sentence.

On Dec. 30, Gov. Polis granted Aguilera-Mederos’ application for a commutation, reducing the sentence too 10 years and granting parole eligibility in five years, on Dec. 30, 2026.

“You were sentenced to 110 years in prison, effectively more than a life sentence, for a tragic but unintentional act,” Polis wrote in his clemency letter. “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.”

Polis said the unusual sentence highlighted the lack of uniformity between sentences for similarly situated crimes and expressed hope that the case would spur an important conversation about sentencing laws.

“You have wondered why your life was spared when other lives were taken,” the governor wrote to Mr. Aguilera-Mederos. “You will struggle with this burden of this event for the rest of your life,” and “you will serve your just sentence.”

Polis also noted that the tragic event prompted the Colorado Department of Public Safety to launched the Mountain Rules, implementng in-cab traffic alerts via Drivewyze and PrePass that notify drivers of steep grades, locations of runaway truck ramps, and areas for brake checks and cooling.

DPS also developed and deployed new technology to measure and detect hot brakes along the I-70 corridor.

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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