BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Two Colorado district attorneys sent a blistering letter to Gov. Jared Polis accusing him of caving to public pressure when he reduced the sentence of a trucker who killed four people. The governor cut Rogel Aguilera Mederos’s sentence from 110 years to 10 years in December of 2021.
He agreed to meet with the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council last week to discuss his decision. In advance of that meeting, Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty and Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein penned a letter to Polis.
“I certainly didn’t expect the letter to be in the public realm at all,” said Dougherty. He says they agreed with Polis that the 110 year sentence was extreme. “But it was our position and concern that the process had not yet been completed in justice system.”
The governor’s commutation came just two weeks before the judge in the case was to reconsider the sentence at the request of Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King.
The DA’s say Polis’ decision to intervene in a pending case is “unprecedented, premature, and unwarranted.”
“It’s my belief the trial judge is best positioned to decide on the appropriate sentence in any case, and that’s because the trial judge has the opportunity to hear from the victims, family members of the victims, the prosecutor, but also the defense attorney, the defendant and his loved ones.”
The judge also knows the facts of the case says Dougherty. Aguilera Mederos’s actions, he says, weren’t careless, but reckless. He and Rubinstein suggest Polis was swayed by “petitions, online surveys, and tweets.”
His decision, they say, undermines public trust in the justice system. and is already having a ripple effect. Ten years for killing four people, they say, is far too lenient.
“In Boulder County and other jurisdictions, the action taken in that case is being referenced as a barometer for which other cases should be decided.”
Dougherty says Polis’ actions also call into question his commitment to thoughtful sentencing reform. Both he and Rubinstein are part of a diverse task force in the process of overhauling the felony sentencing structure. Dougherty says the governor assured him he supports a collaborative approach, even if his actions suggest otherwise.
“He did not say he made a mistake. He didn’t say he did anything wrong. He did not apologize, but he acknowledged it was unprecedented, and I’m optimistic what happened in that case was truly an exception.”
A spokesperson for the governor released a statement saying he “brought the sentence in line with how others have been punished for similar crimes. There was clearly an urgency to remedy this sentence.”
Tom Raynes, Executive Director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, says the facts of the case are “incredibly unique, exceedingly egregious and unlike any other Colorado case in recent memory.”
District attorney Alexis King also called the Governor’s action premature saying, “Aguilera Medero’s repeated and devastating choices were not an accident. The trial judge was in the best position to… reconsider the sentence.”