Colorado Governor Jared Polis reduced the sentence on truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos from 110 to 10 years after more than 5 million people signed a petition calling for leniency.
In his commuter letter, signed on Thursday, Polis said the 26-year-old driver would be eligible for parole in five years.
“Even if you are not innocent, your punishment is disproportionate compared to many other inmates of our criminal justice system who committed intentional, premeditated or violent crimes,” Polis wrote.
“Your most unusual verdict highlights the lack of uniformity between the penalties for similar crimes, which is especially the case when individuals are charged with offenses that require mandatory minimum sentences.
“This case will hopefully spur an important conversation about the sentencing laws, but any subsequent amendments to the law will not retroactively affect your punishment, and that is why I am giving you this limited transformation.”
A judge sentenced Aguilera-Mederos on Dec. 13 to the mandatory minimum set by Colorado law, but prosecutors filed a motion to reconsider the verdict following the public outcry.
A petition on Change.org garnered more than 5 million signatures calling for his sentence to be reduced, while truck drivers across the country decided to stand in solidarity with Aguilera-Mederos and refused to drive through the state.
Aguilera-Mederos testified that he was towing timber when the brakes on the semi-trailer failed as he drove down a steep incline on Interstate 70 into Denver on April 25, 2019.
The Aguilera-Mederos semi-trailer drove into 12 cars and three other semi-trailers, killing four people and injuring others.
A jury convicted Aguilera-Mederos in October of four counts of vehicle homicide and 23 other charges. As Colorado’s mandatory minimum sentence for “violent crimes” must be served consecutively, a judge sentenced Aguilera-Mederos to 110 years in prison.
During his sentencing, Aguilera-Mederos struggled to speak through his tears as he approached the court and apologized to the families of the victims.
“I know they have trauma, I know I feel it,” he said. “But please do not be angry with me … I worked hard for a better future for my family. I have never thought about hurting anyone in my entire life.”
He added: “I was not out shooting crowds or a school. I was not affected by drugs or alcohol. I was working and I lost my brake. Truck drivers know this hard moment when you lose your brake. There is nothing , you can do.”
In its letter of communication to Aguilera-Mederos, Polis called the verdict “arbitrary and unfair” and added that it was not the judge’s fault that handed down the obligatory verdict.
“The families of these victims will never again have the chance to embrace their lost loved ones,” Polis wrote in the letter. “This was a tragic event that affected many coloradans. Although your actions have caused tremendous pain, I am encouraged by your personal reflection and the safety changes in commercial vehicles that were made in the wake of this tragedy to ensure that this type of event will never happen again. “