DENVER (KDVR) — More than 3 million people have signed an online petition asking Gov. Jared Polis to grant clemency to Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, the truck driver found guilty of a fiery April 2019 crash that killed four people.
Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years in prison on Monday, after a jury found him guilty of 27 counts in October.
According to a Change.org spokesperson, the petition is the fastest-growing petition on the website in all of 2021, with more than 45,000 people signing the petition over a one-hour stretch Wednesday.
Many on the petition have questioned the lengthy sentence for an act they call unintentional.
Aquilaras-Mederos claimed the brakes on the truck failed and he lost control.
A giant fireball erupted after Aguileras-Mederos slammed into dozens of cars already backed up on the highway because of an earlier crash.
“There doesn’t seem to be an intentionality of murder, and he’s getting a sentence that would rival a mass murderer,” attorney Bryan Kuhn said. “I think that is not sitting well, I think a lot of people think there maybe should be a long jail sentence, but this may be just a little too much for some folks.”
Kuhn said the judge’s hands were tied on the sentencing by something called mandatory sentencing, a framework laid out in state law that requires certain sentences for certain crimes.
“If that is the legal code or statute, the judge does not really have any flexibility with that,” Kuhn said. “The judge has to follow that, and does not have any discretion to raise or lower the sentence.”
Criminal defense attorney Jay Tiftickjian said he was surprised to see so many charges filed, knowing the mandatory sentencing would likely result in a life sentence.
“I can’t think of the last case here, or anywhere else, where somebody committed a negligent or reckless crime that resulted in such a sentence,” he said. “It’s really telling of how the government can come down and really crush someone if they want to.”
At Monday’s sentencing, the judge said he would not run the sentences consecutively if given discretion over the decision.
It’s unclear how the victims’ families feel about the sentence length. Those that spoke Monday offered little insight into that decision.
Polis’ office released the following statement regarding potential clemency:
We are aware of this issue, the Governor and his team review each clemency application individually.
Attorneys said Aguilera-Mederos will now be given the option to appeal the sentencing, a process that could take months.