Mugshot of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, provided by Lakewood (CO) Police Department via Associated Press on April, 26, 2019.
Opinion - In April 2019, 26 year old Texas truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was arrested on charges of multiple vehicular homicide after slamming his truck into a line of stopped cars at high speed, killing four people. The crash occurred on the eastbound lanes of I-70 around 4:30 PM in Lakewood, CO, west of Denver. Aguilera-Mederos suffered minor injuries.
Investigators looked into whether brake failure or mechanical problems kept the semitrailer truck from stopping. Aguilera-Mederos has maintained that they failed as he drove on a downhill grade and crashed into cars that were stopped because of another wreck.
Two months ago in October, the jury convicted Aguilera-Mederos of four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, ten counts of attempted first-degree assault, four counts of careless driving causing death, two counts of vehicular assault, and one count of reckless driving. Under Colorado law, first-degree assault and attempted first-degree assault are so-called “crimes of violence” in which prison sentences must run consecutively, not concurrently, when they spring from the same incident. Days after he was sentenced on December 13th, a Change.org petition was created to push the courts to grant clemency or a reduced sentence. It argues that the accident was not intentional and that responsibility actually lies with the trucking company and the faulty brakes.
The petition reads, "We are trying to hold the person who needs to be held responsible, responsible." But who is responsible: a third party, as if the manufacturer and not Aguilera-Mederos sat behind the wheel? Or Aguilera-Mederos himself, despite reports that he "passed all of the drug and alcohol tests that were given, including a chemical test?” Should a company be held responsible for this truck’s brakes seemingly spontaneously malfunctioning, a common occurrence and in this case may have tragically contributed to four people’s deaths. Has the company previously issued a mass recall due to a flaw in their design causing other similar incidents? Perhaps most importantly, is this assault on a brake manufacturer unconstitutional similar to comparable attacks against gun manufacturers which violate the 2nd Amendment?
To secure clemency for Aguilera-Maderos requires disproving the court’s view that there was indeed the intent to commit murder or perhaps some manner of carelessness or neglect involving his truck or surroundings. The State of Colorado defines first-degree assault as intentionally and seriously hurting another person by means of physical force such as with a deadly weapon, and the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect had intended to cause a serious injury. Likewise, Colorado laws define careless driving as “a person who drives a motor vehicle, bicycle, electric assisted bicycle, or low-power scooter in a careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances.” Careless driving is a less severe traffic offense than reckless driving, which means consciously disregarding the safety of others. Vehicular assault is a strict liability crime: it doesn’t matter whether the defendant intended to hurt someone, but whether (s)he caused serious injury by driving recklessly or while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Finally, if a normal person would know that they are creating a strong chance of hurting someone, it can lead to a reckless driving charge. Under Colorado law, driving is only careless if done without due regard to the risks. Reckless drivers know, or at least should know, that they are a danger to others. However, reckless drivers choose to ignore that danger. An example of what might be asked of Aguilera-Maderos should his case be revisited is reminiscent of Sen. Howard Baker’s question during the Watergate hearings: “What did Aguilera-Maderos know, and when did he know it?”
Should the State of Colorado have instead targeted a corporation as if it had rigged their own product or for negligence of some sort rather than treat this as a tragic accident and an isolated case? Will left-wing activists inevitably blame the severity of Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence on racism and ‘white supremacy’ in spite of the judge bemoaning the fact that he had no discretion to sentence to a lesser prison term, though he would’ve liked to? Under the Biden administration’s ‘equity’ policy however and presumably his fellow Democrat in Colorado Governor Jared Polis, minorities are to be provided preferential treatment in most legal matters or in government job applications (Affirmative Action) and handled with greater sensitivity due to ‘systemic racism’ and ‘white supremacy’.
One example of how this trend may perhaps mirror the ruthless nature of some trial lawyers like First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King — the white woman who pursued the convictions that led to the 110-year sentence for Aguilera-Mederos, who is Hispanic. “This is a grossly excessive sentence,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the left-leaning organization ACLU of Colorado. “It cries out for the reform of sentencing laws.” Though Silverstein didn’t appear to discuss the issue of race, he did call for “change to be directed at the seldom-criticized but largely unchecked power of prosecutor” ―because they “decide on the charges to file, and they decide what plea bargains to offer.”
As the infamous J.R. Ewing quoted of his father Jock on Dallas, “Where there’s a way, there’s a will.” Be it through “extreme prejudice” as the term coined from Apocalypse Now (1979) or careless negligence, if it was Ms. King’s will to convict Aguilera-Mederos, she indeed found her way. The system did what it was supposed to otherwise. Yet discernment is a path increasingly less traveled as left-wing social justice grifters continue to rig our justice system for more ‘equitable’ outcomes.