Prosecutor’s Tone-Deaf Post Fuels Outrage Over Colorado Trucker’s Sentence

·4 min read
Reuters
Reuters

A prosecutor in the now-viral case of a jailed Colorado trucker has been slammed for penning a tone-deaf Facebook post as calls for the driver’s sentence to be commuted intensify.

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, an immigrant from Cuba, was sentenced to 110 years in prison on Dec. 13 after the brakes on his tractor-trailer failed in 2019, causing the then-23-year-old to lose control on Interstate 70 outside of Lakewood, Colorado. Twenty-eight vehicles were damaged in the fiery crash that killed four and injured dozens.

The hefty sentence has sparked days of protests, with at least 4.5 million people signing a petition for clemency and scores of truckers vowing to boycott Colorado.

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Adding to the outrage, NBC 9 Denver reported that a screenshot of a post made by Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Kayla Wildeman on her personal Facebook page had made its rounds in legal circles. In it, she thanked a colleague for making a trophy of a brake shoe to celebrate the conviction.

The date of the post is unclear, and screenshots of the original have been repeatedly shared.

Along with the photo, Wildeman wrote, “Get yourself a trial partner as great as Trevor Moritzky. He turned a brake shoe from a semi truck into a memento. What a special gift from a truly special person. I never asked for a new bff at work, let alone one that is old enough to be my father (no offense) but I sure am grateful this trial brought you into my career as both a colleague and a friend! Words will never convey how lucky I am to have gotten the opportunity to learn from you!”

The Denver Channel on ABC 7 reported that Moritzky is a senior district attorney who worked with Wildeman on the case.

The League of United Latin American Citizens condemned the post, calling for “immediate disciplinary action and a formal apology,” according to ABC 7.

District attorney Alexis King released a statement on Dec. 20, saying Wildeman’s “post was in very poor taste” and did not reflect the overall views of her office. King clarified that the brake shoe in Wildeman’s post was not evidence from the case.

Leonard Martinez, one of Aguilera-Mederos’ attorneys, said, “To make any kind of mockery or behave as if this was a ball game of winning and losing is an outrage. This was about four people losing their lives and another person facing the prospect of a 110-year prison sentence."

Social media has not been quiet since Aguilera-Mederos’ extraordinary sentence was handed down. Truck drivers started an online campaign #NoTrucksToColorado, vowing not to travel through Colorado.

“#NoTrucksToColorado. #Colorado really smells like white supremacy in charge of justice,” posted a Twitter user.

“#NoTrucksToColorado I’m here for it!” another added. “I don’t even care if my packages are delayed. Let him out!”

The case has sparked renewed interest in Colorado’s mandatory-minimum sentencing laws. Prison sentences must be successive in cases that deal with “crimes of violence.” The Associated Press reported that Aguilera-Mederos, who was convicted on 27 counts—including vehicular homicide and reckless driving—received a sentence twice as long as some murder convicts.

Prosecutors had argued that Aguilera-Mederos checked his brakes shortly before the crash, and had passed at least one emergency ramp he could have used. During the sentencing hearing, the judge said he believed Aguilera-Mederos didn’t mean any harm and deserved a lesser sentence, but his hands were tied by the state’s sentencing laws.

After his conviction, Aguilera-Mederos, who previously had a clean record, told CBS4 Denver that he wished he had died instead of the four who were killed.

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An online petition for Aguilera-Mederos to be granted clemency, which had reached more than 4.5 million signatures by Tuesday, was Change.org’s fastest-growing of the year.

An attorney for Aguilera-Mederos told Fox 31 Colorado that his team is in the process of filing an application for clemency but he would not elaborate. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ office said that it is open to a request for clemency and would be timely about its consideration should an application be received.

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