Jury Quickly Returns Guilty Verdict on 27 Counts For Trucker Charged in Deadly I-70 Crash
Denver, CO – The trucker charged in a horrific 28-vehicle crash along Interstate 70 that claimed the lives of four people and injured six others has been convicted on 27 counts.
On Friday afternoon, after only a few hours of deliberation, a Jefferson County jury found 25-year-old truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos guilty on a range of charges including: four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, ten counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree- extreme indifference, two counts of vehicular assault- reckless, one count of reckless driving, and four counts of careless driving causing death.
Each of the vehicular homicide counts carry a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.
Mederos was found not guilty on 15 other counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree.
The three-week trial stemming from the April 2019 fiery crash on I-70 culminated on Thursday and Friday as Mederos took the stand in his defense.
Speaking through a translator, the Cuban-born immigrant shared his emotions regarding those whose lives were cut short and those who were injured.
“I feel very badly,” Mederos said as tears streamed down his face. “I wish it would have been me.”
The circumstances that led to the deadly crash — and the legal proceedings that followed — captured nationwide attention.
Mederos was operating a flatbed semi loaded with lumber when he lost his brakes and eventually crashed into rush hour traffic at a high rate of speed.
Shortly after the accident, video emerged of Mederos’ big rig speeding, swerving and narrowly missing numerous passenger vehicles as it traveled along a downgrade on I-70 eastbound just minutes from the crash site.
Prosecutors led by Deputy District Attorney Kayla Wildeman argued Mederos was negligent and reckless as he missed multiple clearly marked truck ramps in the minutes leading up to the tragic events.
However, defense attorney James Colgan asserted Mederos was an inexperienced driver — especially on that route — and had not been sufficiently trained on how to handle such a difficult driving situation.
“Contrary to what the prosecution has said, [Mederos] didn’t purposely avoid the runaway truck ramp. He was moving in and out of traffic,” said Colgan. “Maybe there was some tunnel vision going on here. If anyone has ever been under stress, especially unexpected stress just think about that for second. And if this is the first time you’ve ever driven it under a period of unexpected stress, it’s unfair to say, well you purposefully avoided that runaway ramp. That isn’t what happened.”
Mederos even admitted on the stand that he overstated his driving record and experience to his employer, Houston, TX-based Castellano 03 Trucking, in order to secure the job.
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Colgan also argued the trailer brakes were not adequately maintained by Mederos’ employer.
“Had those trailer brakes been operable and had they been functioning and properly maintained before that trailer left Houston, this accident never would have happened,” he said during closing arguments. “Mr. Mederos had no idea that what he was dragging behind him from Houston was an inoperable trailer. He had no idea that when he needed those trailer brakes they weren’t going to exist.”
Wildeman offered a different explanation in her closing statements.
“There’s only two ways this can go; either the defendant didn’t catch it like he was supposed to or the defendant drove on his brakes the entire way and caused them to be that way,” she said.
Moreover, Wildeman told the jury Mederos chose to crash into stopped passenger vehicle traffic instead of colliding into the rear of a tractor-trailer — which was pulled off along the side of I-70 — which proved,”He didn’t care about the other people on the road; he cared about himself.”
She continued, “He was all the way in the left lane – swerved all the way over the shoulder. He saw that Beauty Mattress truck pulled up – came up and he thought, ‘If I hit that truck, I’m going to die.’ So then he swerved into traffic.”
Colgan rebutted Wildeman’s assertions saying, “The truth of the matter is that by the time this truck got to the bottom of the hill, there were no options available. All the options were not available where no one was going to get hurt. It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback. It’s very easy to say, ‘This is what I would have done.’ But the fact that Mr. Mederos was not willing to commit suicide doesn’t make him a killer.”
In the end though, the jury convicted Mederos on the most serious charged offenses.
Sentencing is scheduled for December 13, 2021.