I-70 Crash Trucker Will Stand Trial But Fear Of “Threats” Sending Him Back To Texas
Denver, Colorado – Truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos will stand trial on 32 charges, including 4 counts of vehicular homicide, for his involvement in a fiery 28-vehicle crash along I-70 on April 25.
In a Denver courtroom on Thursday, the 23-year-old Cuban-born Mederos, along with a Spanish speaking interpreter and his lawyer, Robert Corry, heard testimony from investigators and witnesses to the fatal scene.
John Doll, investigator with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and a former detective with the Arvada Police Department, testified that Mederos told police after the crash that his brakes failed.
According to Doll, Mederos claimed had been driving for five hours after having picked up a load of lumber in Wyoming bound for Texas.
Mederos told investigators he was traveling 45 mph as he was descending the mountainous terrain west of Denver.
However, Doll testified video of a flatbed semi-truck taken a few miles from the crash scene by motorists Jonathan Valdez and Pedro Olvera was Mederos’ vehicle.
The video shows the big rig operating at speeds well above the marked 45 mph for commercial vehicles, thus contradicting Mederos’ claims that he was operating within the speed limit, according to Doll.
Further, prosecutors argued Mederos drove “under a clearly marked yellow caution sign” which reads “RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMP 2000 FEET.”
The video then shows the semi driving past the runaway ramp.
As Mederos continued along I-70 picking up speed, he moved to the right shoulder and encountered a big rig parked up ahead.
It was at this moment Jefferson County District Attorney, Pete Weir argued Mederos “acted with extreme indifference.”
Mederos guided the flatbed semi, which was loaded with lumber, back onto I-70 and into slowed traffic ahead.
Mederos told investigators he closed his eyes and thought he was going to die before plowing into the stopped vehicles causing a massive fireball of carnage.
Prosecutors argued Mederos’ actions resulted in the deaths of 4 people and seriously injured 2 others.
In May, Weir and his office filed 40 counts against Mederos including 36 felony counts which are as follows: four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, two counts of vehicular assault and 24 counts of attempt first-degree assault.
Prosecutors have since added a 41st count, attempted first-degree assault.
Judge Finds Probable Cause And Sends Case To Trial
Thursday’s preliminary hearing was to determine if prosecutors had “probable cause” to continue with its charges.
Judge Bradley Burback, after hearing the evidence and reviewing it for about an hour, returned to the courtroom to render his decision on the matter.
“There was a knowing act on the part of the defendant that exhibited an extreme indifference to the value of human life,” Judge Burback told those in attendance, which included Mederos’ family members, as well as friends and family members of the victims.
Going Back To Texas
It wasn’t all bad news for Mederos.
His attorney, Denver-based lawyer Robert Corry, filed a motion to allow Mederos to live in Houston, Texas as they prepare for trial.
Mederos, who immigrated from Cuba, lived in Houston with his partner Nailan Gonzalez, before the crash.
Corry implored the judge to let Mederos travel back to Texas because Mederos and Gonzalez had received “threats” during their time in Colorado.
Against the urging of victims’ family members who were present in the courtroom, Judge Burback granted Corry’s request.
Prosecutors have argued Mederos is a flight risk due to the number of years he is facing in prison if convicted on the charges against him.
Mederos was driving for Houston-based Castellano 03 Trucking at the time of the crash.
According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the trucking company has been cited for 30 safety violations during 19 inspections in the last 24 months with 3 trucks being placed out of service (OOS) during that time.
The data also reveals drivers for the company have been cited for not being able to adequately communicate in English.
Subpoena Request For Second Truck Driver Rejected
During the court proceedings, Corry asked Judge Burback to grant a subpoena for the semi-truck driver who was parked along the shoulder.
Corry claimed it was illegal to park there and the driver’s actions was a factor causing Mederos to swerve back into traffic.
Judge Burback rejected Corry’s request and denied the motion to reconsider.
Mederos’ arraignment in the case is scheduled for September 3, 2019.
However, questions still remain as to whether Corry will be retained as counsel.
As Transportation Nation Network (TNN) has reported, Corry has been arrested twice in the last month alone.
He is scheduled to appear in court on July 31 to face charges of aggravated motor vehicle theft, first-degree kidnapping, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.
Read more about his legal troubles HERE.
Read all of TNN’s ongoing coverage of this case HERE.