A judge sentenced a truck driver to 110 years in prison for killing four people in a catastrophic 2019 crash on an interstate in Colorado.
Judge Bruce Jones voiced mixed feelings on Monday, saying he would have given defendant Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 26, less time if he had the discretion under the law. Even so, 110 years was the minimum under sentencing guidelines, and the truck driver still had to take responsibility for the deaths of Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, William Bailey, 67, Doyle Harrison, 61, and Stanley Politano, 69.
“I accept and respect what the defendant has said about his lack of intent to hurt people, but he made a series of terrible decisions, reckless decisions,” Judge Jones said.
Aguilera-Mederos’s brakes failed while he was hauling lumber on April 25, 2019 while on Interstate 70 in Jefferson County, Colorado. He failed to take a runaway truck ramp while barreling down the road at more than 85 miles per hour before crashing into stationary traffic, prosecutors said. His actions that day constituted a crime instead of an accident, the state said.
“This is the result of the defendant doing anything but caring about others that were on the road that day,” Deputy District Attorney Kayla Wildeman, according to The Denver Post.
Six other people were also injured. The crash involved four semis and 24 cars. One driver even recorded the frightening moment the truck sped by.
“The carnage was significant,” the Lakewood Police Department’s Ty Countryman said in 2019. “Just unbelievable.”
Defense lawyer James Colgan argued at trial that his client was an inexperienced driver overwhelmed by what was happening, according to the Post. He made the best decisions he could under the circumstances, the attorney said.
Jurors took six hours to find Aguilera-Mederos guilty of charges of vehicular homicide, first-degree assault, attempted first-degree assault, careless driving causing death, vehicular assault, and reckless driving.
“It’s been difficult. Sometimes it feels like being half a person,” Kathleen Harrison said Monday in a victim impact statement about losing her husband Doyle Harrison, according to KCNC.
“He was taken away from me in an instant by the actions of a selfish person,” Juanita Bailey said from her wheelchair about losing son William Bailey.
“My mother’s life has been turned upside down,” the brother of Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano said through a Spanish-language translator.
Aguilera-Mederos voiced regret at sentencing that he lived through the crash.
“It hurts,” he said. “I ask God too many times why them and not me. Why did I survive that accident?”
[Screenshots via KPNC]
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