The truck driver who killed four people when he drove his out-of-control semitrailer into stopped traffic on Interstate 70 in Lakewood nearly three years ago was sentenced Monday to 110 years in prison.
District Court Judge Bruce Jones imposed the sentence after finding it was the mandatory minimum sentence set forth under state law and that he had no discretion to impose a shorter prison term.
“I will state that if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” the judge said.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, lost his brakes in Colorado’s high country and failed to take a runaway truck ramp before he rammed his speeding semi into stopped traffic under an overpass in Lakewood on April 25, 2019, causing a fiery 28-car pileup that killed four people and wounded six others.
Those killed were: Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, William Bailey, 67, Doyle Harrison, 61, and Stanley Politano, 69.
“Sometimes it feels like being half a person when you lose your spouse,” said Kathleen Harrison, who was married to Doyle Harrison. “We were a team.”
A jury in October found Aguilera-Mederos guilty of four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, 10 counts of attempted first-degree assault, four counts of careless driving causing death, two counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless driving.
Jones said he may revise the sentence in the future if Aguilera-Mederos seeks a review, and that he had “no desire to see” Aguilera-Mederos in prison for the rest of his life.
“I would say that perhaps the legislature, in imposing a requirement of consecutive sentences, had in mind that there might be cases where a judge should give it further consideration after hearing from the Department of Corrections, and this may very well be one of those cases,” Jones said.
Aguilera faced a mandatory minimum of 110 years in prison, though Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney, James Colgan, argued Monday that case law allowed Jones to find a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. Colgan said the lighter sentence was more appropriate.
“There are no winners here, judge,” Colgan said. “No one wins, no matter what. We have a courtroom full of broken lives… It’s just tragic. There is no other way to put it.”
Aguilera-Mederos wept as he spoke during the sentencing. He apologized and asked the families of the victims for forgiveness, and said he never intended to hurt or kill anyone.
“I am not a criminal,” he said. “I am not a murderer. I am not a killer. When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life.”
He went on to say that his life since the crash has been “difficult, depressing, terrible and bad,” and said he struggles to sleep and thinks constantly about the people who died.
“I lost my brakes,” he said, weeping. “The truck drivers, they know it’s a hard moment, you can’t do anything. You can’t do anything.”
But prosecutors with the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office said Aguilera-Mederos had several chances to stop the tragedy from happening, and that his bad decisions directly led to the crash.
The crash was a crime, not an accident, said Duane Bailey, the brother of victim William Bailey. He asked Jones to sentence Aguilera-Mederos to at least 20 years in prison, though he said he did not personally seek a life sentence for Aguilera-Mederos.
“He made a deliberate and intentional decision that his life was more important than everyone else on the road that day,” Bailey said.
Most of the family members of the people who died in the crash asked that Aguilera-Mederos face prison time. They spoke of forgiveness coupled with accountability.
“My dad was taken away from me,” Megan Harrison said. “A huge person in my life just never came home.”
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