The truck driver who crashed a lumber hauling 18-wheeler into dozens of stopped vehicles on a Colorado highway in 2019 was sentenced in a Jefferson County courtroom. Judge Bruce Jones handed down the verdict of 110 consecutive years in prison. Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, a 26-year-old immigrant from Cuba, barreled down I-70 in Lakewood on April 29, 2019. During court proceedings it was said he was “swerving so badly that he forced other cars off the road.” Aguilera-Mederos blamed this, and the whole crash, on the fact his brakes had failed. His truck then crashed into more than two dozen cars and four other semi-trailers that were stopped for an accident. The crash ruptured gas tanks, causing flames that consumed several vehicles and melted parts of the highway. This tragedy claimed the lives of four people and hospitalized six others.
The four men who died were all from Colorado: Doyle Harrison, 61, of Hudson. William Bailey, 67, of Arvada. Miguel Angel Lamas Arrellano, 24, of Denver. Stanley Politano, 69 of Arvada.
What did the Prosecution say in Court?
The crash occurred while Aguilera-Medros was on a part of the interstate where commercial vehicles are limited to 45 mph because of a steep descent from the Rocky Mountain foothills, according to investigators. Prosecutors focused on his decision not to take any runaway truck ramps while traveling about 85 mph on Interstate 70 west of Denver. His defense attorneys claimed he did not know the truck’s brakes were smoking or that he would not be able to stop his truck, though others testified at the trial that they had seen them smoking. The judge also heard from the victims and family members of the victims, some through victim-impact statements read by the prosecution. Many of them said Aguilera-Mederos should have used the runaway truck ramp or veered off and away from the line of cars he crashed into.
What did the Truck Driver say in Court?
Before he was sentenced Monday, Aguilera-Mederos broke down as he addressed Judge Jones and sobbing relatives of the men he killed. “I’m begging for forgiveness from everyone,” he said, according to KDVR. “It is hard to live with this … A part of me will be missing forever as well. This was a terrible accident, I know. I take the responsibility, but it wasn’t intentional. I am not a criminal. I am not a murderer … it is not me. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life, and my Jesus Christ, he know that,” he told the court. Aguilera-Mederos told the court that he was an immigrant from Cuba who’d been “working for the American dream.” “I was not out robbing a bank or a store. I was not out shooting up crowds or a school. I was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol … I was working for a better future for my family,” he said.
What did the Driver’s Family say in Court?
Before Judge Jones handed down his sentence, family and friends of Aguilera-Mederos spoke in support of the 26-year-old. His attorney argued that his actions were a series of negligent decisions, and he was overwhelmed with the situation. He contended that the judge was not bound by the mandatory-minimum sentences laws, citing previous court cases, and urged the judge to consider a lighter sentence. Jones disagreed but opened the door for a review.
What did the Judge say in Court?
The judge acknowledged that Aguilera-Mederos did not intend to harm anyone, blaming sentencing guidelines for the steep sentence of 110 years in prison, to be served consecutively. “If I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” the judge said. “I accept and respect what the defendant has said about his lack of intent to hurt people, but he made a series of terrible decisions, reckless decisions,” the judge said, according to the report.
Do you agree with the judge’s sentencing? Could this horrific tragedy have been completely avoided? Did he not realize how dangerous of a situation he was in? If so, did he really know what he was supposed to do? Do you think we should question the training procedures of the Houston based company he was driving for? What do you think you would have done differently if you were the driver of a runaway truck?
Written by: Erinn Malloy