ST. CHARLES – Two of the five people charged with marijuana trafficking earlier this month sought bond reductions Wednesday during their first court appearance.
Public Defender Julia Yetter, attorney for Elburn couple Matthew A. Westerlin, 28, and Crystal L. Westerlin, 29, asked Judge David Akemann to reduce their $27 million bond.
The Westerlins were among five people charged Nov. 13 with marijuana trafficking when authorities concluded a three-month investigation that resulted in the seizure of 598 pounds of marijuana.
They also were charged with possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana with intent to deliver and possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana. Richard Ecklund, 48, of Batavia and Dean A. Dziuba, 55, of Darien, are facing the same charges.
Mary L. Nunez, 57, of Batavia, was charged with marijuana trafficking. Bond for Nunez, Dziuba and the Westerlins was set at $27 million; bond for Ecklund was set at $35 million. Dziuba was the only defendant who did not have a court appearance Wednesday.
Attorney Sheldon Sorosky, who represents Nunez and Ecklund, did not request a bond reduction Wednesday. A status hearing has been set for them Jan. 16.
Judge Akemann will decide Friday whether to grant the Westerlins a bond reduction. Yetter did not specify how much she wanted their bond to be reduced, but said Matthew Westerlin had $1,000 to put toward bond.
Yetter argued the Westerlins have very little criminal history. She said Matthew Westerlin served probation for a 2007 battery misdemeanor and Crystal Westerlin had been charged in 2008 for traffic offenses.
"I believe a $27 million bond is excessive," she said, arguing that marijuana trafficking is a nonviolent offense.
Yetter said electronic home monitoring is an option for the Westerlins if their bond is reduced.
Assistant State's Attorney Scott Schwertley argued against their bond reduction, saying large amounts of drugs could lead to potentially dangerous situations. He pointed out that Matthew Westerlin had been carrying a pellet gun or air gun, which looked like a firearm, while trafficking marijuana.
He said Matthew Westerlin "had thought enough to have at least a fake gun in the car."
"The fact that 600 pounds of marijuana were trafficked into the area. ... When that amount of drugs is around, there's a danger to everyone around," he said.
Schwertley said trafficking marijuana carries a sentence of 12 to 60 years in prison.
He said court documents indicate that the Westerlins had previously brought their minor children along with them to pick up marijuana to allay suspicion.
He said the marijuana trafficking organization had helped pay for the vehicle the Westerlins used to transport drugs, and added that the cartel had previously helped pay the bond for another member of the cartel.
"This unnamed, unknown cartel could have posted bond for someone else," Yetter said. "But they did not post bond for Mr. Westerlin."
Schwertley said Matthew Westerlin had made 10 to 15 trips to pick up marijuana in the last year and was compensated about $8,000 for each trip.
"He's made $80,000 to $120,000 tax-free in cash since last November," he said.
Schwertley argued Crystal Westerlin had made seven trips for $6,000 apiece, resulting in $42,000 in tax-free money. He pointed out that the Westerlins were using food stamps and Matthew Westerlin had been receiving $800 a month for unemployment.
"When there's large amounts of drugs, there's large amounts of money," he said.