Guilty plea possible in crash that killed 2 St. Charles motorcyclists

Updated 10/28/2011 5:06 PM

An Aurora woman accused of killing two St. Charles motorcyclists and injuring 12 others in a May 2009 crash in Elburn could plead guilty in early December, her attorney said.

Bruce Brandwein, attorney for Alia Bernard, 27, said if his client does plead guilty, it would be a blind plea.


A blind plea is when a defendant pleads guilty without agreeing with prosecutors beforehand on a specific sentence and puts the sentence in the hands of a judge.

"She wasn't texting and she wasn't under the influence of any drugs or alcohol," Brandwein said.

Bernard is accused of having marijuana in her system when she caused a crash the morning of May 23, 2009, near Smith Road and Route 47 that killed Wade and Denise Thomas and injured other motorcyclists on a group ride. She was charged a year after the crash.

Brandwein and Kane County First Assistant State's Attorney Jody Gleason met privately with Associate Judge Allen Anderson Friday to discuss a possible plea. The meeting was prompted by Anderson's refusal to declare an Illinois law unconstitutional and drop the charges against Bernard.

Brandwein had argued that the state law, which automatically makes a person criminally responsible for a crash if they have any amount of illegal drugs in their blood or urine, was unconstitutional.

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In other words, a person could smoke marijuana and a week later cause a car crash and be charged with a felony.

Bernard faces up to 28 years in prison for the two aggravated driving under the influence charges.

Brandwein argued that Illinois laws violate the equal protection under law promised by the U.S. Constitution. A driver who consumes marijuana for medicinal purposes in a state where that use is legal could cause a crash in Illinois and be treated differently from a resident of Illinois, he argued.

Anderson's ruling pleased supporters of the Thomases, including Norm Turner, a Batavia rider who missed six months of work because of the crash.

"I remember asking (Wade and Denise) to go on that ride. It was a beautiful day. We started early," Turner said. "(Bernard) is just hiding behind her attorney. How can somebody not be held responsible for that? Let her sit in a (prison) cell and think about what she did."

Bernard, who is free on bond, next due in court on Dec. 9. If she does not plead guilty, a trial date will be set.

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