"I take responsibility. But it was not intentional. I am not a criminal."
A petition to show mercy to a truck driver who accidentally killed four people has passed 4.3 million signatures.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was sentenced to 110 years in prison last week for the April 2019 crash on Colorado’s I-70.
On the day of the crash, Aguilera-Mederos was hauling lumber down a mountain road into Lakewood; he told police he lost control of his brakes, and couldn’t avoid traffic he suddenly encountered that had built up around an earlier crash.
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Some 28 vehicles, including four other semis, were smashed up or caught fire in the ensuing collision; at least six people were injured and four people, aged between 24 and 69, died.
The driver was convicted on 42 counts, including vehicular homicide, first-degree assault, attempted first-degree assault, reckless driving and careless driving, according to the Denver Channel.
Passing sentence, Judge A. Bruce Jones said his hands were tied because of mandatory minimum laws in the state; despite giving him the minimum allowed, the sentences must be served consecutively, resulting in more than a century behind bars.
Now a petition to have the sentence commuted has become one of the fastest growing ever on Change.org.
“Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23 has nothing on his driving record, or on his criminal history,” the petition reads. “He had complied with every single request by the Jefferson County courts, and investigators on the case. He’s passed all of the drug and alcohol tests that were given including a chemical test.”
“This accident was not intentional, nor was it a criminal act on the driver’s part. No one but the trucking company he is/was employed by should be held accountable for this accident. No, we are not trying to make it seem any less of a tragic accident that it is because yes, lives were lost. We are trying to hold the person who needs to be held responsible, responsible. The trucking company has had several inspections since 2017, with several mechanical violations.”
According to federal records cited by Denver Channel at the time of the crash, Houston-based Castellano 03 Trucking had been hit with 30 safety violations, including for brake issues and a weak grasp of English, in the two years prior.
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Prosecutors had argued that Aguilera-Mederos could have taken steps to avoid the crash, including steering onto the runaway truck ramp he passed on the way down, or veering away from the stopped traffic when he realized a collision was inevitable. Investigators determined he was travelling at 85 MPH before the crash.
There was no way for investigators to check the condition of the brakes, as the truck was destroyed.
Speaking at his own trial, the tearful driver asked for leniency.
“I’m dying. It is hard to live with this trauma. I can’t sleep. I’m thinking all [the time] about the victims,” he said. “This was a terrible accident, I know. I take responsibility. But it was not intentional. I am not a criminal.”
One of the victim’s daughters even pleaded with the court to have mercy: “I know I don’t get to have my dad for the rest of my life, but I hope that the defendant’s son can have his dad for the rest of his life,” she said, per Fox 31.
“There are many things Rogel could have done to avoid the courts, but he took responsibility showed up and severely apologized to the victims families,” the petition continues. “Some of the families even offered Forgiveness. Rogel is not a criminal, the company he was working for knew the federal laws that go into truck driving but they failed to follow those laws.”
“Rogel has said several times that he wishes he had the courage to crash and take his own life that day, this tragic accident wasn’t done with Intent, it wasn’t a criminal act, it was an accident.”
Some truck drivers on social media are reportedly calling for a boycott on the state, and calling on other drivers not to work there.
According to KDVR, federal law only requires the Castellano 03 Trucking to carry a minimum $750,000 in liability insurance — which is exactly what it has.
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