In 2019 a truck driver in Colorado crashed into stopped traffic, killing four people. In 2021, the driver was convicted of numerous crimes and sentenced to 110 years in prison. In response to fierce public backlash to the severity of the sentence, both the DA in the case and the governor initiated steps to reduce the sentence. Wikipedia has a page on the case.
Here I round up important news stories and opinion pieces about the case. I’ll update the page as needed.
December 21: My column ran in Complete Colorado: “”. . . The driver in question, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, barreled right under a huge yellow sign posted over the right lane reading, ‘Runaway Truck Ramp 2000 Feet,’ with three blinking yellow lights for emphasis. . . . Even if we assume maximum responsibility of the driver, a prison sentence of 110 years is unjustly overlong. Some murderers get lighter sentences. Clearly what is at play here is recklessness, not an intent to harm. . . . Effectively, what happened in this case, and what happens in many criminal cases, is that the DA extorted the defendant to try to get him to surrender his constitutionally guaranteed right to a jury trial by threatening extremely severe penalties if the defendant went to court and lost. . . .”
December 23: Former DA George Brauchler discussed the trucker case on 710 KNUS. “I would” reduce the length of the sentence, he said. He was concerned about the “panicked” response to the case under public pressure.
December 23: Denver Post reporter Alex Burness reports, “DA Alexis King says she will ask the court to consider a new sentencing range of 20-30 years for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the I-70 trucker sentenced to 110 years. Hearing scheduled for Monday the 27th.”
December 30: Governor Jared Polis commuted the sentence to ten years. The DA was seeking a reduced sentence of ten to twenty years. One relative of a victim of the crash was especially unhappy with the decision. The Denver Post praised the move; George Brauchler harshly criticized it. “The mandated 110-year sentence was excessive,” Brauchler concedes, but Polis should have let the courts handle the matter, he argues. I tend to agree that Polis jumped the gun and probably should have waited to see what the courts did with the case. Brauchler also argues that, if the DA thought the original sentence was overly harsh, “she was ethically obligated not to pursue such an outcome.” See also Brauchler’s December 30 Tweet.
December 31: The Colorado ACLU praised Polis’s actions.