A rally on Wednesday calling for a reduced sentence for trucker Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos drew roughly 100 people to the Capitol.
Joining the people calling for action was a new voice: his mother, Oslaida Mederos, who cried as she talked about her son. She came to Denver from Houston. She said Aguilera-Mederos has a five-year-old son who misses his father.
“I’m here asking the governor to pardon my son,” Mederos said in Spanish. “I haven’t been able to talk to him. I need to see him, I need to talk to him because I’m going to die if I don’t.”
Aguilera-Mederos, 26, faces a 110-year sentence after a jury in October found him guilty of four counts of vehicular homicide and other charges stemming from a crash in April 2019 in Lakewood that killed four people. His attorneys said his braked failed during the crash.
The lengthy sentence aligned with the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws. But on Tuesday, Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King asked a judge for a hearing to reconsider the sentence. Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney confirmed to CPR News that a formal application for clemency has been filed to Gov. Jared Polis.
Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he met with Polis on Wednesday to talk about Aguilera-Mederos. Garcia said he asked Polis to consider giving Aguilera-Mederos a pardon or commuting his sentence. Garcia said the governor told him he would announce his decision in 14 days.
“The governor was very positive, he listened,” Garcia told reporters. “He said he was going to let the process take its due course.”
The roughly 100 people in attendance included Yudarqui Fornaris, who like Aguilera-Mederos is Cuban.
Fornaris came to Denver from Colorado Springs. She was one of the first people at the Capitol. She wants Aguilera-Mederos to get a “correct” sentence that reflects that the case was an accident.
“First off, I’m here asking for justice for Rogel,” Fornaris said in Spanish. “One hundred and ten years is abuse. One hundred and ten years is a life sentence for an accident.”
Fort Collins resident Rachel Kelley said she comes from a family of truckers. She said she came to Denver to demonstrate what she called a “gross injustice.” She remembers when the accident first happened.
“It hits really close to home,” Kelley said. “It’s kind of scary to think about what mandatory sentencing might look like to somebody that we really know and love well.”
Josue Martinez showed his support by wearing a shirt with Aguilera-Mederos’ photograph. He’s Cuban as well and said he splits his time between Denver and Miami. He said he’s seen people calling for a lesser sentence all over social media; Wednesday’s rally was organized in part on Facebook.
“We all have to be here because this is an injustice, because of the number of years they gave to that poor guy,” Martinez said in Spanish.
Following his sentencing, some people began to organize on Aguilera-Mederos’ behalf, including calling on Polis to reduce his sentence.
An online petition asking the governor to take action on the case has gotten more than 4.5 million signatures, and on Tuesday, celebrity and law student Kim Kardashian — who has used her platform in recent years to advocate for criminal justice reforms — called on the governor to do the “right thing” in the case.
Speakers on Wednesday expressed condolences to the four victims of the accident. William Bailey, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61; Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; and Stanley Politano, 69, died in the crash.
State Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver said on Wednesday she had been following the case from its start. But after he was sentenced earlier this month, she said people started reaching out to her through social media and email about how much time he had received. She and other members of the Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus issued a petition to Polis to consider Aguilera-Mederos’ case for clemency.
“I also believe though that it shouldn’t take millions of signatures on a petition or celebrities weighing in order for people to access justice, and to have their clemency applications be reviewed,” Gonzales said. “There are many people here in Colorado who have been waiting for a very long time, months if not years, for their applications to be reviewed.”
CPR News reporter Allison Sherry contributed to this reporting.