“After learning about the highly atypical and unjust sentence in your case, I am commuting your sentence to 10 years and granting you parole eligibility on December 30, 2026,” Polis wrote in a letter (pdf) to Aguilera-Medero.
“You were sentenced to 110 years in prison, effectively more than a life sentence, for a tragic but unintentional act,” the Centennial State governor elaborated on his decision. “While you are not blameless, your sentence is disproportionate compared with many other inmates in our criminal justice system who committed intentional, premeditated, or violent crimes.”
The decision on Aguilera-Mederos’s sentence was among several year-end commutations and pardons issued by Polis.
A relative of Aguilera-Mederos’s attorney works in the governor’s office.
“This individual had absolutely no involvement in the commutation process and works in an unrelated capacity to this matter, and was not aware of the Governor’s decision in advance,” Polis’s office said in a statement.
The move comes days after a judge scheduled a hearing for next month to reconsider the sentence at the request of the district attorney, who planned to ask that it be reduced to 20 to 30 years. Around 5 million people signed an online petition seeking clemency for Aguilera-Mederos.
Jefferson and Gilpin Counties District Attorney Alexis King said Thursday she was disappointed with the governor’s decision, saying it was premature. She said it went against the wishes of the surviving victims and families who had lost loved ones, adding that they wanted to have the judge who oversaw the trial determine the appropriate sentence.
“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,” she said in a statement.
In 2009, Aguilera-Mederos’s truck plowed into vehicles that had slowed due to another wreck, setting off a chain-reaction crash and a fireball that consumed vehicles and melted parts of the highway.
The crash killed 24-year-old Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 67-year-old William Bailey, 61-year-old Doyle Harrison, and 69-year-old Stanley Politano.
Aguilera-Mederos testified then that he was hauling lumber and the brakes on his semitrailer failed before the incident as he was descending a steep grade of Interstate 70 in the Rocky Mountain foothills.
Judge Bruce Jones imposed the 110-year sentence on Dec. 13 after finding it was the mandatory minimum term set forth under state law, noting it would not have been his choice.
Prosecutors had argued that as Aguilera-Mederos’s truck approached the wreckage, he could have used a runaway ramp alongside the interstate that is designed to safely stop vehicles that have lost their brakes.
The Associated Press contributed to the report.