By Rory Fleming
Sometimes, prosecutors don’t do their work for the right reasons. They use their job, which supposedly involves protecting public safety, as a way to litigate their personal or familial traumas, then project those traumas onto defendants they do not even know. They then get revenge on wholly unrelated defendants as if it’s a form of role-play that should be confined to a therapist’s office.
Other times, they look at it like a game. When a certain harshness in sentencing is reached, their colleagues give them an award and they naturally accept. It is like an Xbox achievement, something to flaunt for a few friends but otherwise completely irrelevant to the real world. Except the person metaphorically slain is not a Nazi zombie on a first-person shooter game, but a human being beloved by their own set of family and friends.
Kayla Wildeman, the deputy prosecutor who handled the case against Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, a young Cuban-American man who crashed into oncoming traffic because his brakes failed, is one such prosecutor. After Davis Vanguard ran my previous column about the case, a concerned reader from Colorado sent screenshots of a post Wildeman made on her own personal Facebook page. The post has apparently been spreading through the state’s legal community.
In her post, Wildeman writes: “Get yourself a trial partner as great as Trevor Mortizky. He turned a brake shoe from a semi truck into a memento. What a special gift from truly a special person. I never asked for a new bff at work, let alone one that is old enough to be my father. (no offense [emoji]) but I sure am grateful this trial brought you into my career as both a colleague and a friend! Words will never convey how lucky I am to have gotten the opportunity to learn from you!”
Below the text, there is a photo of one of the brakes that failed on Aguilera-Mederos’ truck. A trophy plaque plastered to the evidence states “Kayla Wildeman: Power Move” then “19CR 1608,” which is the case’s citation, and “I-70 Case.”
This “brake trophy” is murder-murderabilia, similar to then-Alcovy Judicial Circuit (Georgia) DA Layla Zon’s electric chair toy or the gold coins Montgomery County, Texas, District Attorney Brett Ligon hands out when his assistant prosecutors obtain life sentences. Keeping these ghoulish items is not altogether different than how warlords in a more barbaric era would impale the heads of their enemies on stakes. And the 110-year prison sentence Wildeman obtained for Aguilera-Mederos is not that much unlike Wildeman impaling the man herself, as he is slated to never have a true life again.
We should not mince words: Kayla Wildeman is sick. Not only is she sick, but she is cunning, so much so that her alma mater, the University of Colorado law school in Boulder, wrote in 2019 that the recent graduate’s experiences at the school made her “a more compassionate and understanding person.” If it was her in the defendant’s box, that combination of qualities would be enough for a prosecutor to use that much-coveted designation used to take away the humanity of people accused of crimes: “predator.”
Like the sickness of many criminal defendants, we can debate whether Wildeman is a product of nature or nurture. She is probably a bit of both. The culture of US prosecutor offices is rotten at the core. The desire for vengeance against people one does not even know is not considered a psychological vice, or a barrier to ethical legal practice, but the holiest of virtues. Obtaining accountability through an ironclad legal verdict that stands up to scrutiny on appeal is much less of a focus than pummeling any individual defendant real good, as these prosecutors assume that this is the definition of accountability that all crime victims have.
Maybe one day Wildeman will grow up. She only graduated law school in 2019. If she does, it will likely be too late for many of the people she has prosecuted. By then, Aguilera-Mederos may have already spent decades in prison for a tragedy that was probably not even a crime. Take prison institutionalization into account, and he would be a husk of a human even if released.
But at least there is hope for her to change. Wildeman is in her 20s or 30s, and barely out of law school. Trevor Moritzky, the office elder who gave her the “trophy” brake, is solidly middle-aged. While Wildeman is barely out of adolescent brain development, which may extend to around 30 years old, Moritzky is an old dog. According to LinkedIn, he graduated college in 1991 and has worked as a prosecutor in Colorado for over a decade. As prosecutors like to argue (when convenient), older people are less capable of changing their ways: it’s simply brain science.
DA Alexis King should do the right thing and terminate both Kayla Wildeman and Trevor Moritzky from employment, effective immediately. We know from the academic research that overzealous prosecutors do not usually stop their racist militancy unless they are punished. Each one of those millions of signers at Change.org to grant clemency to Aguilera-Mederos points to the rightness of this outcome. Wildeman and Moritzky are exactly what is wrong with today’s “justice system.”