Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to abruptly reduce the 110-year prison sentence for the truck driver who killed four people in a fiery 2019 crash is impacting other ongoing court cases, a bipartisan pair of Colorado district attorneys told the governor in a five-page letter that was highly critical of the commutation.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty, a Democrat, and Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, a Republican, called the commutation “unprecedented, premature and unwarranted” in a Jan. 20 letter to Polis obtained by The Denver Post on Tuesday through an open records request.
The prosecutors said the governor’s decision to reduce Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ 110-year sentence to 10 years while the trucker’s case was still pending in the courts “undercut the community’s trust” in the justice system and has impacted plea-bargain negotiations in some cases.
“Your decision is having a substantial ripple effect,” the district attorneys wrote.
In a recent Boulder County case, they said, prosecutors extended a plea offer of eight years in prison to a person who sexually assaulted a girl. The defense attorney in that case argued the sentence was excessive in light of Aguilera-Mederos’ reduced prison term, the letter said.
“Sentences should be influenced by the facts and circumstances, not by petitions, online surveys or tweets,” the letter said.
The two district attorneys sent the letter to Polis the day before the governor was scheduled to meet with the board of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. The letter was intended to allow Polis to prepare to address their concerns, Dougherty said.
“The governor wanted to clear the air and acknowledged that his action was unprecedented,” Dougherty said of the meeting. “DA Rubinstein and I are optimistic that our concerns were understood and that what happened in that case was an exception.”
Conor Cahill, a spokesman for Polis, called Aguilera-Mederos’ 110-year prison sentence “bizarre” and said Polis acted quickly because “there was clearly an urgency to remedy this sentence and restore confidence in the uniformity and fairness of our criminal justice system.”
Both Dougherty and Rubinstein said in the letter that the 110-year prison sentence was excessive, but argued that Polis should have waited for a judge to reduce his sentence — a process that was underway — before acting.
Aguilera-Mederos’ mandatory minimum sentence drew widespread outrage after it was imposed in December, with more than 5 million people signing an online petition that asked it be reduced.
Polis’ decision to commute the sentence days before the judge overseeing Aguilera-Mederos’ case was scheduled to consider reducing the prison term drew rebukes from the judge and from family members of people who died in the April 25, 2019, crash on Interstate 70 in Lakewood.
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