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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Colorado prosecutor seeks rare reduction in truck driver’s 110-year sentence in fatal accident

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos is seen in a Lakewood police booking photo after he was arrested on suspicion of multiple counts of vehicular homicide following a crash on I-70 in Lakewood, Colorado, US April 26, 2019. Handout /File photo via Lakewood Police Department / REUTERS

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DENVER, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Colorado prosecutors on Monday court in a rare bid to demand a reduced prison sentence for a truck driver sentenced to 110 years for vehicular manslaughter stemming from a raging 2019 crash along a mountain highway had gone in. Killed four motorists.

Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King is asking a judge to re-sentence Roselle Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos to a prison sentence of 20 to 30 years, arguing for more leniency in a highly publicized case that prosecutors said. Said there was a lack of criminal intent.

Aguilera-Maderos was indicted by a jury in October on four counts of murder and multiple counts of assault and reckless driving in an April 2019 accident.

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District Court Judge Bruce Jones sentenced him to 110 years on December 13, saying he would not have served such a long term, but to the minimum penalty mandated under state law.

At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Aguilera-Maderos, who was carrying a load of wood, had been improperly trained in driving on mountain roads.

He knew the brakes on his tractor-trailer were failing, but descended the mountains anyway, prosecutors said, bypassing a runaway truck ramp and crashing into stalled traffic on Interstate 70 west of Denver when he lost control of the vehicle.

Prosecutors never charged that 26-year-old Aguilera-Maderos, a Cuban immigrant with no criminal record, was incarcerated or had any criminal intent.

At the sentencing, Aguilera-Maderos cried as he asked for forgiveness and leniency. “I’ve never thought about hurting anyone in my entire life,” he said.

The case garnered national attention and nearly 5 million people signed an online petition for clemency.

At a hearing on Monday, Jones said it was virtually without precedent for prosecutors, rather than defense attorneys, to demand a reduced sentence in such a case. Jones ordered both parties to file briefs and set another hearing for January 13.

Defense attorney James Colgan called King’s move “outrageous”.

“Two weeks ago, they (prosecutors) were completely fine with my client turning 110, until there was a public outcry,” he told Reuters after Monday’s hearing. “It’s all political.”

At a news conference after a hearing in which he declined to take questions, King said he consulted with the victims’ families and survivors before urging a lighter sentence.

King said he did this “so that the court could consider an alternative sentence that was not bound by mandatory sentencing structures.”

Colgan said he was unsure about the outcome of future appeals if prosecutors agreed with the motion, so he took no stance at Monday’s hearing.

“It is unprecedented. It has never happened before,” he said.

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Reporting by Keith Kaufman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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