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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis faced criticism from two district attorneys in the state – a Democrat and a Republican – who said his steep commutation of a truck driver convicted in a crash that led to four deaths before a judge weighed in could set a “troubling precedent,” according to reports.
Polis commuted Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ vehicular homicide sentence to 10 years late last month after his mandatory 110-year sentence in December sparked national outrage that it didn’t fit the crime. A motion was filed by the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office at the end of the month to have the sentence reconsidered and the case is still pending, FOX 31 in Denver reported.
Jefferson County District Attorney Alexis King had said she would recommend his sentence be lowered to 20 to 30 years, KMGH-TV in Denver reported.
That prompted Boulder and Mesa County District Attorneys Michael Dougherty and Daniel Rubinstein to pen a letter to Polis, writing, “That sentence is far too low for someone who kills four people in the appallingly reckless way in which Mr. Aguilera-Mederos chose to do so. As we look to the future, though, our greatest concern is that you chose to intervene in a pending case, thereby undermining the integrity and confidence that Coloradans place in the justice system.”
COLORADO GOVERNOR COMMUTES TRUCK DRIVER’S 110-YEAR SENTENCE TO 10 AFTER PUBLIC OUTRAGE
The DAs said they had never heard of a governor intervening in a pending case before Polis, according to FOX 31.
“To intervene prior to allowing the judge — who heard every witness, saw all the evidence and knew the case better than anyone — to exercise his statutory authority, was unprecedented, premature and unwarranted,” they wrote.
They agreed, though that the 110-year sentence was “far too high.”
The governor’s office released a statement Wednesday that said the “bizarre” sentence had “undermined confidence in our criminal justice system” and he used his legal authority to “step in and fix it.”
The statement said while some people wanted a full pardon for Aguilera-Mederos,’ he felt that wasn’t right and made the decision based on how similar cases have been sentenced.
“The individual is guilty and is serving his sentence,” his office said, according to KMGH. “There was clearly an urgency to remedy this sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system. Let the punishment fit the crime is a basic tenant of justice, and Coloradans are relieved to know that the punishment now fits the crime in this case.”
Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced last year for a 2019 crash in the Rockies after the brakes on his 18-wheeler gave out, causing it to hit more than 2 dozen stopped vehicles, killing four people. The fact that he had been speeding and driving recklessly before the crash, his brakes had already been giving him problems, he disabled safety monitors and manipulated driving logs and didn’t warn drivers in any way as he was careening down the hill all factored into his conviction on 27 charges, according to FOX 31.