By Blair Miller
DENVER (KOAA) – The judge who presided over the trial and original sentence for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos in the deadly I-70 truck driving crash criticized Gov. Jared Polis in an order Tuesday for commuting the truck driver’s sentence from 110 years to 10.
Jefferson County District Court Judge Bruce Jones wrote in the order, obtained by Denver7 Wednesday, that he learned of the sentence reduction in news reports and had not received a formal notification. The court had been set to resentence Aguilera-Mederos to what was expected to be a lesser sentence later this month before the commutation last Thursday.
“The Court respects the authority of the Governor to do so. Based on the timing of the decision, however, it appears this respect is not mutual,” Jones wrote in his order. “The Court again extends its condolences to the families of those who died, to those who were injured, and to all who were traumatized because of the events on I-70 on April 25, 2019.”
The court also confirmed Friday that the resentencing hearing that had been set for Jan. 13 has been canceled.
In an order last week, Polis reduced Aguilera-Mederos’s sentence from 110 years to 10 years, calling the original sentence “disproportionate compared with many other inmates in our criminal justice system.”
Aguilera-Mederos was convicted of more than two dozen counts in October, including the most serious charges he faced, in the crash that killed four after his brakes failed and he smashed into traffic on I-70. When Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced in December, Jones said his hands were tied when it came to the sentence because of mandatory minimum sentence laws in Colorado, and gave him the minimum range for the charges on which he was convicted.
But the sentence gained national attention, with millions signing a Change.org petition and celebrities bringing attention to the sentence.
After the pressure, First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King asked the court for a resentencing hearing and said she would seek a sentence of between 20 and 30 years instead, citing the facts of the case and input from the victims and their families. After a hearing in late December, Judge Jones set the Jan. 13 resentencing date.
After Polis reduced the sentence, Aguilera-Mederos’s attorney said he was grateful for the governor’s decision.
But King, the district attorney, said she was “disappointed in the Governor’s decision to act prematurely.”
In a statement Wednesday, Duane Bailey, the brother of Bill Bailey, who was killed in the crash, said he was disappointed both in the 10-year sentence and at the process.
“I feel the Governor should have let the courts have their say. Apparently so does the judge. I would have preferred 20 years, but I would have been much more open to accepting any time given by the judge. Because he has heard all the evidence and knows the case much better than the Governor,” Bailey said.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office, Conor Cahill, provided the following statement about Polis’s decision Wednesday evening:
“The judge was forced to give a 110 year sentence due to mandatory sentencing requirements. This individual is guilty and he will go to jail just as others who have committed similar crimes were punished. A 110 year punishment was totally different than what others who committed similar crimes received. There was an urgency to remedy this sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system,” he said.
Denver7’s Colette Bordelon contributed to this report.
This story was originally published Jan. 6, 2022, by KOAA in Denver, an E.W. Scripps Company.