A judge Wednesday rejected a move by an Aurora woman -- who had marijuana in her system when she caused a May 2009 crash that killed two St. Charles motorcyclists -- to withdraw a previous guilty plea.
The attorney for Alia Bernard, 29, who is serving a six-year sentence for the deaths of Wade and Denise Thomas, argued that her right to a speedy trial was violated.
Kane County Judge Karen Simpson said the court had no authority to rule on the matter, as well as a motion to withdraw Bernard's guilty plea from December 2011, or to reconsider the prison sentence she's serving.
A year after the crash on Route 47 near Elburn, Bernard initially was charged with reckless homicide, which carries up to five years in prison. In May 2011, she was re-indicted by a grand jury on two charges of aggravated DUI -- which each carried a prison term of between three to 14 years.
Defense attorney Michelle Moore argued that the increased charges unfairly prejudiced Bernard, who initially was set for trial in June 2011. Moore also contended that prosecutors had all the evidence they needed and should have charged Bernard with the more severe charges from the beginning.
"It came one year after the original indictment, two years after the crash and on the eve of trial. That alone should raise red flags," she argued. "There's no way you can put a bow on it and say what the state did is OK. They knew from Day 1 what they could charge."
Bernard faced anywhere from probation to 28 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated DUI in December 2011. She was sentenced in February 2012 to seven years in prison, but now-retired Judge Allen Anderson reduced Bernard's sentence to six years last August.
Kane County First Assistant State's Attorney Jody Gleason noted -- and Simpson agreed -- that Bernard's original attorney never filed a written demand for a speedy trial, and a motion to vacate her guilty plea was filed several months later instead of within 30 days.
Gleason said one reason prosecutors re-indicted Bernard in May 2011 was because of an Illinois Supreme Court decision that came down in April 2011.
In that case, the court essentially concluded that motorists that had any amount of an illegal drug in their systems were automatically considered impaired and criminally responsible for any crashes.
"In this case, we didn't have to prove the defendant was under the influence of marijuana, merely that she had marijuana in her system," Gleason said. "This was not a tragic accident. This was a tragic crime."
At her sentencing hearing, Bernard said she smoked marijuana two days before the crash in which she rear-ended a car on Route 47, pushing it into a column of motorcyclists headed in the other direction. Her attorney noted that prosecutors and police both agreed she was not impaired at the time of the crash.
Moore has 30 days to file an appeal in the case and has indicted she plans to do so.