Thursday, December 29, 2011

More trouble for retired Berrien County judge
Lynda Tolen facing domestic violence charge.

LOU MUMFORD South Bend Tribune, December 29, 2011

A retired Berrien County judge with a history of substance abuse issues is in trouble once again.

Chief Assistant Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic confirmed Thursday that Lynda Tolen was arraigned this week in Berrien County Trial Court in St. Joseph on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. She was arrested Dec. 22, following a complaint by a woman Sepic identified as Lisa Brasseur, and she spent the night in jail before posting 10 percent of a $1,500 bond, Sepic said.

A case conference has been set for Tuesday, he said, but that’s in jeopardy because he has asked the state Attorney General’s office to move the case to another county. Tolen’s connection to Berrien Trial Court makes it all but certain Sepic’s petition will be granted.

The former wife of former Berrien County Prosecutor Jim Cherry, who died of cancer in 2007, Tolen, 60, served 20 days in jail last year following a pair of drunken-driving offenses. The first occurred in March 2010 in St. Joseph, resulting in bond restrictions which she violated four months later when she was arrested in Benzie County in northern Michigan on yet another drunken-driving charge. The case was handled by the St. Joseph County (Mich.) prosecutor’s office and a district judge from that county.

The charges weren’t the first time she’d been accused of drunken driving.

In February 1995, while she was serving as a county Trial Court judge in Niles, she was driving home from work and crashed her car on the St. Joseph Valley Parkway (U. S. 31 bypass). A blood-alcohol test at the scene registered a reading of 0.109, a little above the then minimum standard of 0.10.

The next month, it was announced she’d receive only a traffic ticket for careless driving, based on the lack of a subsequent blood-alcohol test. Handling of the situation and the case’s outcome quickly became points of contention for many in the county.

She resigned her judgeship in 2008 after 21 years. From 1996 until her retirement, she presided over the Trial Court’s Civil Division.

Staff writer Lou Mumford:, 269-687-3551,0,1526563.story