MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Many in the South Florida community are reacting after a Colorado judge sentenced a Cuban migrant on Monday to 110 years in prison for what they believe was not his fault and millions have signed an online petition seeking clemency or commutation.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, is a truck driver was convicted in October of causing a fiery pileup that killed four people and injured six others on Interstate 70 west of Denver.
The "huge sentence" is raising more than just eyebrows and many Cubans in South Florida who know Aguilera-Mederos say he does not deserve it. That it was not his fault.
"I'm begging for forgiveness. I wish all the heart felt pain to go away," said Aguilera-Mederos before his sentencing.
For those who drive the big rigs in Miami, the sentencing in Colorado this week is startling.
Aguilera-Mederos, they claim has been sentenced unfairly after he lost his brakes.
He was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges stemming from the April 25, 2019, crash. He testified that the brakes on his semitrailer failed before he plowed into vehicles that had slowed because of another wreck in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.
"It's unbelievable honestly because it could happen anytime, anywhere. If the brakes fail, the brakes fail it's a malfunction," said David Splain, a truck driver.
His attorney told the judge the 25-year-old had no prior criminal record and investigators found no alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash.
The truck driver's long-time friend Emilio Leiva, who lives in Miami, told CBS4 News in Spanish, "He's not a killer or criminal. He is a young man who came to the US for a better life. To succeed. He's been a hard worker... and this was just a mistake."
An online petition on Change.Org has millions of signatures calling for clemency or commutation of the sentence.
Leiva says here in Miami, he has a whole army behind him.
He says, "he is a good sincere person. Great friend, husband and father. I am not saying this because I grew up with him, but everyone loves him."
The attorney for the truck driver says there will be an appeal.
The 25-year-old does have many friends and family members who live in South Florida.
They say their voices will be heard if his sentencing is not reduced.
Aguilera-Mederos, who was hauling lumber, was traveling at least 85 mph on a part of the interstate where commercial vehicles are limited to 45 mph, according to investigators. The initial impact caused a 28-vehicle chain-reaction wreck.
Police said that just before the crash, the truck traveled past a ramp on the side of the interstate that is designed to safely stop trucks and other vehicles that have lost their brakes.
Aguilera-Mederos wept as he spoke during the sentencing, apologizing to the families of the victims and asking for their forgiveness.
"I am not a criminal," he said. "I am not a murderer. I am not a killer. When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life."
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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