After Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to 110 years for a fatal 2019 Colorado crash, his wife Nailan Gonzalez, and extended family rallied to aid the sentence reduction effort. Their public support and pleas for clemency, including a rally at the state Capitol, helped drive millions to sign petitions and compelled Gov. Polis to commute the sentence to 10 years.
What happened exactly in The Tragic Crash?
On April 25, 2019, a horrific crash occurred on Interstate 70 near Lakewood, Colorado when a semi-truck plowed into stopped traffic, killing four people. The driver, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, was convicted of vehicular homicide and originally given a 110-year sentence that was later reduced after public outcry.
At approximately 4:50 pm on April 25, 2019, a semi-truck driven by 23-year-old Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos was traveling eastbound on Interstate 70 when it collided with 12 cars and 3 other semi-trucks that were stopped in traffic near Lakewood, Colorado. The massive crash triggered enormous fires and explosions. Four people were killed: 24-year-old Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 67-year-old William Bailey, 61-year-old Doyle Harrison, and 69-year-old Stanley Politano. Many others were injured.
Aguilera-Mederos claimed his brakes had failed, causing him to lose control of the semi-truck. Investigators would later confirm that the truck’s brakes were not properly maintained by the trucking company.
Prosecutors filed 40 charges against Aguilera-Mederos, including 4 counts of vehicular homicide. He was found guilty on 27 charges and given a 110-year sentence – a punishment that many felt was extremely severe given the unintentional nature of the crash.
The 110-year sentence sparked outrage, with an online petition gaining over 4.5 million signatures calling for clemency. Supporters argued the sentence was unjust and that the trucking company shared responsibility for the crash.
In December 2021, due to public pressure and statements from the victims’ families, Colorado Governor Jared Polis reduced Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence to 10 years, with parole eligibility starting December 30, 2026.
Rogel’s wife helped raise $20,000 for his legal fees
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ wife, Nailan Gonzalez, has supported him throughout his legal troubles. Gonzalez, who resides in Houston, Texas, kept a low profile during the trial but helped raise $20,000 to pay her husband’s legal fees.
Rogel and Nailan have been married for several years and have two young children together. Close friends say Nailan has been devastated by Rogel’s long sentence. She has not yet spoken publicly but friends and family have voiced support on her behalf.
In one Facebook message, Nailan’s cousin said the sentence was a “great injustice” against a “true innocent” and that Rogel was just “one more victim” of the tragic accident. The post pledged continued support and used the hashtag #FreeRogel.
“It is such a great injustice that they are committing to you, so many criminals, thieves, rapists, assassins etc loose and a judge justified his disgusting and corrupt criminal acts and you are a true innocent, one more victim of that accident, the lack of experience and survival instinct lead to similar tragedy, but they are condemning you as if you were a criminal as if you caused that intentionally, you will get out of this you have many people supporting you including myself,…. You are not alone #FreeRogel“
Rogel’s family joined a rally asking Governor Jared Polis to reduce Rogel’s sentence
In December 2021, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ family joined his legal team to rally at the Colorado State Capitol, pleading for a sentence reduction from Governor Jared Polis.
Organizers stated the judge felt compelled to impose the 110-year sentence under Colorado’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws, despite feeling it was unjust.
“The sentencing judge in the case has publicly stated that he would likely not have imposed the sentence, but was forced to follow Colorado mandatory sentencing laws, which require mandatory minimums for specified crimes and require sentences to be served consecutively not concurrently,”the organizers said.
Rogel’s family portrayed him as remorseful with no criminal history or ill intentions. They said he fully cooperated with investigators and was sober during the accident.
“Today’s event is in no way an attempt to minimize the tragic loss of life three years ago, but rather to call to attention to the critical need for sentencing reform,”the organizers added.
The organizers stressed the rally aimed to highlight the need for sentencing reform, not minimize the tragedy of the fatal crash.
Rogel’s mother Oslaida Medero traveled from Texas to attend the rally. She wept while holding a sign reading #FreeRogelAguilera, repeatedly crying “My son, my son” into news microphones.
Governor Polis later stated he was reviewing Rogel’s application for clemency. Just weeks after the rally, Polis announced he was commuting Rogel’s sentence to 10 years, with parole eligibility in December 2026.
Online Petition Gains Massive Support for Sentence Reduction
An online petition started by Heather Gilbee quickly gained over 4.5 million signatures calling for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos to be granted clemency or have his 110-year sentence commuted.
The petition argued that the crash was an unintentional accident, not a criminal act on Aguilera-Mederos’ part. It stated that the trucking company, not the 23-year-old driver, should be held accountable for the tragedy.
Key Points of Petition
The petition emphasized that Aguilera-Mederos had no criminal history and complied fully with investigators. He passed all drug and alcohol tests.
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It noted the trucking company’s past mechanical violations, yet failure to follow federal safety laws. It said Aguilera-Mederos took responsibility and apologized to victims’ families, some of whom offered forgiveness.
Signers Voice Support
Many who signed the petition left comments supporting a reduced sentence. Charyl Gardner wrote that the crash was “not a criminal act” and the company should be charged for the unsafe equipment.
George Castro said evidence proved Aguilera-Mederos was sober and fault lay with mechanical failure, questioning if he faced harsh punishment due to his ethnicity.
The public outcry from the viral petition kept pressure on Colorado officials and contributed greatly to the governor’s decision to commute Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence.
The truck driver’s sentence was lowered to 10 years after originally receiving 110 years for a fatal crash
After initially receiving a 110-year sentence for the fatal Colorado crash, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ punishment was reduced to just 10 years due to public pressure.
An online petition calling for clemency surpassed 4.5 million signatures. Support also came from Aguilera-Mederos’ family and advocates decrying the sentence as unjust.
In December 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced he was commuting the sentence to 10 years, with parole eligibility starting December 30, 2026.
In his statement, Gov. Polis said he was commuting the sentence after learning it was “highly atypical and unjust.”
The initial 110-year sentence was the mandatory minimum under Colorado law. But Gov. Polis said it did not appropriately fit the crime.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney, James Colgan, said the commuted 10-year sentence was “far more reflective of the crime” and called it “justice.”
Colgan said Aguilera-Mederos would be forever grateful for the millions who supported a reduced punishment through petition signatures, rallies, and public statements.