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posted: 5/13/2012 4:42 PM

Woman who killed 2 motorcyclists wants sentence reduced

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A 27-year-old Aurora woman is still fighting her seven-year prison sentence for causing a crash three years ago that killed a St. Charles couple and injured 12 other motorcyclists, including a man who is paralyzed from the waist down.

Kane County Judge Allen Anderson sentenced Alia Bernard to prison in February after she pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI for a crash on May 23, 2009, at Route 47 and Smith Road near Elburn that killed Wade and Denise Thomas.

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The couple was among a group of motorcyclists on a ride to Wisconsin that Saturday morning. Bernard was not drunk at the time, but her bloodstream contained marijuana from her smoking it the Thursday before the crash.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that any presence of an illegal substance in a person's body makes that person automatically criminally responsible for a crash. Authorities do not have to prove impairment.

Bernard's attorneys on July 2 plan to ask Anderson to slice a year off her sentence, of which she must serve 85 percent, or to send her to boot camp instead. They also will appeal the case.

Bernard could have been sentenced to up to 28 years in prison, but if Anderson agreed there were "extraordinary circumstances," he could have given her probation as well.

She had no prior criminal record.

Michelle Moore, an attorney handling Bernard's appeal, said she will argue that extraordinary circumstances apply to Bernard's case, such as the fact that prosecutors and defense attorneys essentially agreed that Bernard was not impaired at the time of the crash.

"That's a critical piece of the puzzle," said Moore, who declined to elaborate on the other extraordinary circumstance arguments she plans to present in July.

Honoring former chief: Aurora Area Crime Stoppers, a program that offers cash rewards for information that leads to arrests in unsolved crimes and catching fugitives, will honor its founder, former Aurora Police Chief Robert Brent and several other supporters later this month.

Crime Stoppers was established in 1985 and it was one of Brent's accomplishments during his 28-year career on the force. During his 12 years as chief, he also helped restructure the department, organized the first SWAT team, oversaw computer-aided dispatch, and introduced Neighborhood Watch.

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner and current Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas will speak at the 7:30 a.m. May 23 event to honor Brent, who retired in 1989.

The free event is at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, 1500 Sullivan Road, Aurora. It is open to the public. RSVPs should be sent to Jim Bondi at bondi@imsa.edu.

Aurora Area Crime Stoppers offers rewards of up to $5,000. Tax deductible donations can be sent to Crime Stoppers, 1111 Church Road, Aurora, 60505.

hhitzeman@dailyherald.com

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