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Colorado governor reduces punishment for I-70 crash driver originally sentenced to 110 years

Colorado's governor used his power to change the sentence after Rogel Aguilera-Mederos applied for clemency.

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has reduced the sentence for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the truck driver in the 2019 Interstate 70 crash that killed four people.

Polis used his power to change that sentence after Aguilera-Mederos applied for clemency.

The governor has reduced Aguilera-Mederos' sentence to 10 years, 9NEWS learned. A news release from the governor's office on Thursday afternoon confirmed the decision.

Duane Bailey, a relative of one of the victims, told 9NEWS that their family had a Zoom call with the governor earlier Thursday. Bailey said Polis told them the sentence will be 10 years to "correct the injustice of the first sentence."

Earlier this month, Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years in prison. He was found guilty of 27 charges, including four counts of vehicular manslaughter.

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“We are very grateful for the Governor’s thoughtful consideration throughout this process and for his willingness to grant clemency for a reduced sentence," Aguilera-Mederos's attorney, Leonard Martinez, said in a statement Thursday. "The judge’s sentence of 110 years is unjust and not in line with prior case law, and we are thankful that the Governor agrees with us. We are reviewing this commutation of the sentence with Rogel and his family. The potential for Rogel to be reunited with his family rather than spend a lifetime behind bars is exciting for all involved.”

Prosecutors introduced evidence throughout the trial to prove that the crash was not an accident, but the result of a series of bad decisions.

"All day long, he was seen driving above the speed limit. His brakes on Berthoud Pass were already smoking and hot," Duane Bailey said last week.

His brother William was one of the four killed in the crash.

"Yes, they failed, but they failed because of his actions. They didn't fail because of a mechanical failure," Bailey said.

A court hearing was set for Jan. 13 for the judge in the case to reconsider the sentence. The request was made by the district attorney.

Because of the governor's actions, that hearing is likely moot.

District Attorney Alexis King said on Monday that she would seek a 20 to 30 year sentence at the Jan. 13 hearing.

"From the beginning, we have followed the process set forth in the law to reach a just resolution of this case," King said in a statement Thursday. "We are disappointed in the Governor's decision to act prematurely. I joined the surviving victims and families of those who lost their loved ones in their wish to have the trial judge determine an appropriate sentence in this case, as he heard the facts and evidence of the defendant's destructive conduct that led to death, injury, and devastating destruction. We are meeting with the victims and their loved ones this evening to support them in navigating this unprecedented action and to ensure they are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect during this difficult time. We look forward to sharing more information with our community that we were ethically prohibited from releasing while the case was pending."

In the news release announcing the sentence change, Polis said he recently learned a relative of the driver's attorney works in the governor's office. The office said this person had no involvement in the commutation process and was not aware of the governor’s decision in advance.

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