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Judge denies motion to withdraw plea in fatal crash

Alia Bernard pleaded guilty to DUI

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 10:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 10:54 p.m. CDT

Kane County Judge Karen Simpson on Wednesday rejected a motion by an Aurora woman who wanted to withdraw her guilty plea to a 2009 crash that killed a St. Charles couple.

This is the second time that a judge has denied Alia Bernard’s motion to withdraw her guilty plea. Associate Judge Allen Anderson, who since has retired, in August 2012 upheld the plea, but he did reduce Bernard’s sentence from seven years in prison to six after her attorney filed a motion to reconsider her sentence.

Bernard was sentenced in February 2012 after she pleaded guilty to two counts of felony aggravated driving under the influence.

The crash occurred about 8:20 a.m. May 23, 2009, at the intersection of Route 47 and Smith Road in Blackberry Township, south of Elburn.

A vehicle in the southbound lane on Route 47 stopped to turn left onto Smith Road, followed by two more vehicles, waiting for several motorcycles to pass.

The motorcycles were heading north.

Bernard was driving a 1999 Toyota Solara, which hit the last stopped vehicle in the rear. The collision created a chain reaction that pushed the first vehicle into the path of the oncoming motorcycles, killing Wade Thomas, 44, of St. Charles and his wife, Denise Thomas, 45, his passenger. In all, the crash involved three cars and six motorcycles.

In her motion, Bernard wrote that her previous attorney’s “failure to inform me of my rights to speedy trial, compulsory joinder, due process and to be free from double jeopardy resulted in the failure to assert such rights prior to my plea of guilty in this case.” Bernard since has switched attorneys.

Aggravated DUI means a death or injury occurred and increases the penalty to six to 28 years in prison. Toxicology tests showed Bernard had marijuana in her system at the time of the crash. Bernard’s attorney at the time, Bruce Brandwein, said Bernard consumed marijuana several days earlier but was not impaired at the time of the crash.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jody Gleason had argued that Bernard didn’t file her motion to withdraw her guilty plea within the 30-day period required by law, and that Brandwein had never filed a written demand for a speedy trial.

Gleason also argued the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case.

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