“What I will say is that if I had discretion, this would not be my sentence,” said a Colorado state district judge when sentencing a young Cuban to 110 years in prison.
In 2019, four people lost their lives and several more were injured when Rogel Lázaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23 years old at the time, collided with the timber truck he was driving into several stopped cars on Interstate 70, west of Denver.
According to Lakewood Police Department investigators, Aguilera-Mederos was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident. He also had no criminal record.
The young man alleged that his brakes failed and did not use the emergency ramp that could have prevented the tragedy.
As Judge Bruce Jones explained at the time of sentencing, the young trucker had made “terrible and reckless decisions” despite “having no intention of doing harm.”
But since state law requires that the sentence for some of the charges Aguilera-Mederos faced, including assault and attempted assault, be a minimum of 10 years and, furthermore, it establishes that the sentences be served consecutively instead of Simultaneously, the young Cuban will have to spend the rest of his life in prison if the sentence is upheld.
The case has generated an intense debate in the US, with an online request signed by more than 1.6 million people, asking Colorado Governor Jared Polis to grant “clemency” to the young Cuban and reduce his time that must remain in prison.
On April 25, 2019, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos lost control of the cargo truck driving down Interstate 70 near a shopping center west of Denver.
As confirmed by investigators in the case, the truck’s brakes began to overheat on a steep descent and Aguilera-Mederos continued on his way despite seeing smoke coming from them.
When the truck’s brakes failed completely, Aguilera-Mederos did not use the emergency ramp that could have stopped the vehicle, and incidentally avoided the tragedy, but instead crashed the truck into several vehicles that were stopped on the interstate due to an accident. previous accident in the area.
The impact was so severe that it ended the life of Miguel Ángel Lamas Arellano, 24; William Baily, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61, and Stanley Politano, 69.
In addition, it generated a fire so large that local media reported that the asphalt of the interstate had melted at the site.
According to Aguilera-Mederos’ affidavit, the young man “thought he was going to die so he closed his eyes before colliding with parked traffic.”
Prosecutors in the case argued that Aguilera-Mederos had had several opportunities to avoid the tragedy and that it was his bad decisions that had caused the incident.
This is why the jury found the young man guilty on six counts of first degree assault with “extreme indifference”; ten counts of attempted first degree assault with “extreme indifference”; two counts of vehicular assault; a reckless driving charge; and four counts of reckless driving causing death.
Speaking to local newspaper The Denver Post, Duane Bailey, the brother of one of the victims, said: “He made the deliberate and intentional decision that his life was more important than that of everyone else on the road that day.” .
Gage Evans, the widow of another of the victims, told a local television station that Aguilera-Mederos deserved a prison sentence and was “relieved” with the jury’s verdict.
“I am not a criminal”
During the trial, the young truck driver cried and apologized to the victims’ families.
“I am not a criminal,” he said. “I am not a murderer. When I see the charges against me, we are talking about a murderer and that is not me. I have never thought about hurting someone in my life.”
He added that his life after the incident has been “difficult” and that he continually thinks about the people who died.
“I lost my brakes. The truckers know this is a difficult time, you can’t do anything. You can’t do anything,” Aguilera-Mederos said during sentencing.
Review the sentence
The Denver Post newspaper dedicated its December 15 editorial to the case of the young Cuban, and asked Colorado Governor Jared Polis to review the possibility of granting clemency and thus reducing his sentence.
“A tool that Aguilera-Mederos used for his work failed […] The U.S. justice system has always had a difficult time handling wrongful death cases. […] If the objective is to dissuade others and promote rehabilitation, how many years in prison will be enough? “Asked the editorial board of the newspaper.
In addition, they added that the governor and the review board should look back at the case to avoid “unfair” sentences like Aguilera-Mederos in the future.
Others, on the other hand, believe that the blame should fall on the company that owns the truck.
In a petition signed online by more than 1.6 million people through Change.org, Heather Gilbee, a Colorado resident, said the company had failed several safety inspections, since 2017.
“No one but the employing company should be responsible for this accident,” Gilbee said.
This case has caused a great impact among the Cuban community in the United States, with numerous personalities who have asked clemency for the young truck driver.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.