Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos: The truck driver sentenced like a mass-murderer in Colorado
Aguilera-Mederos was involved in a 2019 accident that killed four and injured six after he said the brakes on his truck failed.
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Denver District Court Judge Bruce Jones said that if he had the discretion under Colorado state law, he would not have sentenced 26-year-old Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos to the mandatory 110-year sentence for his involvement in an April 25, 2019 crash that killed four and injured another six.
The sentence came down on Monday, Dec. 13, after Aguilera-Mederos was convicted in October of 27 counts in total, including four for vehicular homicide and six for first-degree assault.
On the day of the accident, the truck driver testified that his brakes failed as he made a downhill descent from the Rocky Mountains on a stretch of Interstate 70 just west of Denver.
Video taken from before the accident, shows Aguilera-Mederos’ truck driving erratically, leaking fluid, and missing an emergency runway on the highway. Not long after the video ended, the truck, reportedly traveling 85 miles per hour, slammed into stopped traffic and caused a 28-car pile up.
Following the immediate shock of the tragedy, further reports began to surface that the company Aguilera-Mederos worked for — Houston-based Castellano 003 Trucking LLC — had been hit with 30 safety violations over the last two years.
Those violations included brake issues and for employing drivers without adequate English understanding to drive on U.S. roads.
Castellano 003 Trucking is a small firm that employs five drivers and owns five semi-trucks and trailers.
Federal Motor Carrier Administration regulations state that drivers must be able to read and write in English sufficiently to communicate with the general public and understand road signs.
According to reporting from Denver7, a driver or drivers of one of the trucks was ruled to not meet the English proficiency requirements in Kansas in August, and again in Indiana in December.
Following the crash, the Denver Post also reported that Aguilera-Mederos was a green card holder from Cuba who spoke to investigators through an interpreter.
At his trial, Aguilera-Mederos expressed sorrow for what transpired following his series of poor decisions, saying he never meant to kill anyone.
“It’s hard to live with this trauma. I can’t sleep, I’m thinking all the time about the victims,” he said. “This was a terrible accident, I know. I take the responsibility. But it wasn’t intentional.”
Some of the families of the victims have forgiven Aguilera-Mederos, but still expressed a need for him to be held accountable.
Per Colorado law, certain categories of crimes require individuals that commit them to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration. This is the crux of the reason Aguilera-Menderos was sentenced to 110 years. Jones was bound by state law to sentence him to consecutive terms for his charges.
In the days since, there have been major calls to have the law changed in the state, and a Change.com petition that’s garnered more than 3 million signatures to have Colorado Governor Jared Polis grant Aguilera-Mederos clemency.
It is the largest petition to exist on the site in 2021, and also appeals for the trucking company — given its shoddy recent record — to be held accountable rather than Aguilera-Mederos.
“This accident was not intentional, nor was it a criminal act on the driver’s part. No one but the trucking company he is/was employed by should be held accountable for this accident,” wrote Heather Gilbee, organizer of the petition. “No, we are not trying to make it seem any less of a tragic accident that it is because yes, lives were lost. We are trying to hold the person who needs to be held responsible, responsible.”