Supporters of Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos have planned a series of rallies throughout the metro area this week, adding to a groundswell of support behind reducing the sentence of the 26-year-old truck driver who crashed into traffic on Interstate 70 in 2019.
Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced last week to 110 years in prison for the accident, which happened after the brakes on his truck failed and he passed a runaway truck ramp. The 28-car pile-up closed I-70 in Lakewood for a day. Four people died.
Supporters of the driver argue the length is too harsh. Even the judge in the case said he wouldn’t have given Aguilera-Mederos such a strict sentence had his hands not been tied by Colorado’s minimum sentencing requirements.
The case has drawn widespread attention online in the week since. A change.org petition calling for a reduced sentence surpassed 4.4 million signatures on Monday.
A “Rally for Justice” event on Facebook has around 300 attendees marked as “interested” or “going.” It’s scheduled to take place at 10:30 a.m. at the state Capitol building in Denver on Wednesday. Another event, in Jefferson County, is being planned for next week, according to organizers.
Other in-person demonstrations have so far drawn smaller crowds. On Monday, a group of a dozen supporters gathered on the Capitol steps to voice their frustration.
“It’s unjust,” said Jessica Luna, a doctoral student at CU Denver who organized the gathering. “This was an accident and there was no mal-intent.”
A jury found Aguilera-Mederos guilty on vehicular homicide and 23 other charges, including six counts of first-degree assault, 10 counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree, two counts of vehicular assault, one count of reckless driving and four counts of careless driving. Stanley Politano, 69; Doyle Harrison, 61; Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; and William Bailey, 67, died in the crash.
Many supporters of Aguilera-Mederos showed support for the families of the victims. But they also said the length of the sentence isn’t just.
Luna said she hopes the case gets more national attention and, as a result, Aguilera-Mederos receives clemency or is offered a commutation. She’d also like to see the trucking company that hired him held accountable.
Her husband, Fernando Garcia Luna, stood nearby the small gathering. He held a sign saying “time does not equal crime.”
Multiple factors have fueled interest in the case, he said, including Aguilera-Mederos’ age, background as a Cuban-American immigrant and the length of the sentencing.
“He was charged almost like a terrorist,” he said. “I feel like I was caught off guard along with the rest of Colorado.”
Jeanette Vizguerra, a local immigrant rights activist, addressed a crowd of reporters Monday at the Capitol, saying the upcoming rallies would showcase broad support of Aguilera-Maderos within the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.
“I’m proud of the community for working together for one person,” Vizguerra said. “This is one accident and people need to understand that (the sentence) is too much time.”
Ana Campbell contributed reporting.