(CBS4) – Rogel Aguilera-Mederos is the driver who crashed an out-of-control semi truck into stopped traffic on Interstate 70 in Lakewood in 2019, killing four people and injuring several others. The crash damaged or destroyed 28 vehicles. Aguilera-Mederos was convicted of 27 counts, including vehicular homicide. On Monday, a judge in Jefferson County sentenced him to 110 years in prison. By Thursday morning, than 1.5 million people had signed an online petition asking Gov. Jared Polis to grant clemency, or commutation as time served.
Aguilera-Mederos, who was 23 years old at the time, passed one of Colorado’s runaway truck ramp after losing the brakes on his commercial vehicle as he descended on I-70 from the mountains, a point the prosecution focused on during the trial.
The crash killed Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; William Bailey, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61; and Stanley Politano, 69.
Aguilera-Mederos cried on the witness stand when he testified in his own defense.
“I ask God too many times why them and not me? Why did I survive that accident?” Aguilera-Mederos said to the court.
He testified that he struggled to get his semi into gear when he lost his brakes as he headed down the foothills and crashed into traffic, causing a huge fire. The highway had to be shut down in both directions for roughly 24 hours.
“I am begging for forgiveness. I wish for all the heartfelt pain to go away from all our hearts,” he cried.
Investigators with the Lakewood Police Department said no alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash.
His attorney told the judge that Aguilera-Mederos had no prior criminal record, was an immigrant from Cuba who greatly valued his life in America.
Family members and friends of Aguilera-Mederos told the judge that he is a good young man with a wife and son.
After his conviction, Aguilera-Mederos agreed to do an in-person interview with CBS4 from the Jefferson County Jail.
“I am crying all the time, I think about it and I have flashbacks,” he said.
“My life is not a happy life. It is a very sad life because four people died,” he said as tears fell from his eyes.
He has said he wishes he had died, rather than the others who did.
During sentencing, the judge also acknowledged that Aguilera-Mederos didn’t intend to harm anyone, but that under guidelines set by the law his sentence could be no less than 110 years.
“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.
“If I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” said the judge.
Attorneys for Aguilera-Mederos argued there is case law that should apply and would allow for the minimum sentence, in this case, to be decreased to 20 years. The judge disagreed, but did say it may be a case that may be appropriate for review.
On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis responded to questions about the possibility of granting him clemency.
“We review all clemency applications, we’ve yet to receive one from the individual but every clemency application that we receive, we review and make a determination,” he stated.
Heather Gilbee, The author of the change.org petition stated, in part:
“No one but the trucking company he is/was employed by should be held accountable for this accident. 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.”