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updated: 6/29/2012 7:33 AM

Aurora driver that killed 2, injured 12 wants to take back plea

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  • Alia Bernard

      Alia Bernard

  • A wooden cross with American flags stands for Wade and Denise Thomas, who were killed in a multiple car and motorcycle crash on Route 47 at Smith Road, south of Elburn, in May 2009. Alia Bernard of Aurora is serving a seven-year sentence for causing the crash.

       A wooden cross with American flags stands for Wade and Denise Thomas, who were killed in a multiple car and motorcycle crash on Route 47 at Smith Road, south of Elburn, in May 2009. Alia Bernard of Aurora is serving a seven-year sentence for causing the crash.
    JOHN STARKS | Staff Photographer

  • Wade and Denise Thomas of St. Charles were killed in a motorcycle crash in May 2009 on Route 47 between Elburn and Sugar Grove.

      Wade and Denise Thomas of St. Charles were killed in a motorcycle crash in May 2009 on Route 47 between Elburn and Sugar Grove.
    Submitted Photo

  • The May 2009 double fatal accident that also injured 12 people was on Route 47 just north of Smith Road between Elburn and Sugar Grove. Alia Bernard of Aurora is serving a seven-year sentence for causing the crash that also injured 12 people.

       The May 2009 double fatal accident that also injured 12 people was on Route 47 just north of Smith Road between Elburn and Sugar Grove. Alia Bernard of Aurora is serving a seven-year sentence for causing the crash that also injured 12 people.
    LAURA STOECKER | Staff Photographer

 
 

A 27-year-old Aurora woman who was sentenced to seven years in prison for causing a crash that killed a St. Charles couple and injured 12 motorcyclists in May 2009 wants to withdraw her guilty plea.

Alia Bernard's new attorney argues the state violated Bernard's right to a speedy trial, that her initial attorney was ineffective and prosecutors "ambushed" Bernard when they indicted her on different charges on the eve of trial.

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In May 2010, Bernard was charged with felony reckless homicide in the deaths of Wade and Denise Thomas, who were part of a group headed to Wisconsin when Bernard rear ended another car near Sugar Grove and caused a chain reaction, according to court records.

A year later, prosecutors sought a different indictment on charges of aggravated DUI charges because Bernard had marijuana in her system at the time of the crash.

Defense attorney Michelle Moore wants Judge Allen Anderson to allow Bernard to withdraw the guilty plea on the aggravated DUI charges, cancel her seven-year sentence and begin the case over again on the original charges.

"The state's delayed indictment of class 2 (felony) aggravated DUI charges, on the eve of trial, approximately two years after the crash and one year after the initial indictment, constituted a 'trial by ambush' and prejudiced the defendant by placing her and her counsel in the untenable position of proceeding to trial on the new and additional charges, or being forced to seek a continuance to prepare for trial," Moore wrote in court documents filed last week.

Anderson will hear arguments Aug. 15 and possibly issue a decision then.

In court documents, Moore also argues that the state's delay violated her client's right to a speedy trial and that Bernard's first attorney was ineffective because he did not argue that the second set of charges be dismissed.

In December 2011, Bernard entered a "cold plea," in which a defendant admits guilt without having a sentence agreed upon first with prosecutors and leaves it up to a judge.

She faced between six to 28 years in prison, but probation was possible if Anderson agreed there were "extraordinary circumstances."

Defense attorney Bruce Brandwein argued he, prosecutors and police all agreed Bernard was not impaired at the time of the crash, which happened on a Saturday morning.

Bernard still had marijuana in her system, and testified she smoked it two days before the crash. In Illinois, a person with any illegal substance in their system is automatically considered impaired and criminally responsible if there is a motor vehicle crash.

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