Vang guilty in drunken driving death of UW student - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Vang guilty in drunken driving death of UW student

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A 33-year old man has been convicted of homicide by drunken driving in the April death of a UW-Madison student from China.

The conviction came Thursday after a judge found Kong Vang guilty following Vang's no contest plea, as a part of an agreement with prosecutors.  Vang was also convicted of two other charges, but a half dozen other charges were dropped, but can be considered by a judge when Vang is sentenced in February.

Vang drunkenly ran into SUV into 22-year old student Wenxin "Wendy" Huai April 15 on South Park Street as Huai walked on a sidewalk.  His blood alcohol level was nearly twice Wisconsin's legal limit for drinking and driving, and there was methamphetamine in his sport utility vehicle.

Through a Hmong interpreter, Vang told Dane County Judge John Hyland he understood what he was doing in entering the plea, and said he's begun to address issues.  "I did attend a class and talked to someone about drinking alcohol,"  Vang said through the interpreter.

For the crimes he's been convicted of, Vang faces a maximum of fifty-five years in prison.

Despite the change in Vang's status from defendant awaiting trial to convicted defendant, he remains free, although a prosecutor asked that he be jailed.

"This is a very serious offense,"  Assistant Dane County District Attorney Bryce Pierson said.  "We feel that it would be appropriate at this time that bond be revoked."

But Vang's attorney, Eric Schulenburg, referred to the more than two dozen people supporting Vang in the court gallery as he argued Vang should be allowed to remain free on his $10,000 bail.

"The community, which Vang is a part, gathered together and posted money,"  Schulenburg said.  "None of them had enough on their own to dot it."

Schulenburg said even if Vang had a notion to flee in the face of a possible, stiff prison sentence, his community allegiance is stronger.

"It appears to me that he couldn't possibly consider letting down all these people who are important to him,"  Schulenburg said.

Hyland ruled Vang would remain free on bail, stating his decision does not diminish the seriousness of Vang's actions.  Hyland said Vang has followed bail rules, after initially violating conditions by consuming alcohol. 


Supporters of Huai sat quietly in the back of the court, and were unavailable for comment on the convictions, and Vang's continued freedom.  Shortly after Huai's April death, members of the UW-Madison Chinese Student Association and others demonstrated outside the Dane County Public Safety Building, calling for justice for Huai, and serious consequences in deadly drunk driving cases.

No recommendations were offered Thursday on what Vang's sentence should be.  His sentencing is scheduled on Feb. 22, 2018.

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UPDATE -- During a Nov. 30, 2017 court hearing, Kong Vang pleaded no.contest to homicide by drunken driving in the death of UW-Madison student Wenxin Huai on April 15,  2017.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A Dane County judge Wednesday bound over for trial Kong Vang on several felony charges, including homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, but also lowered his bail tenfold.

Madison Police officers testified Vang's blood alcohol content was .146 - nearly twice the state's legal limit for drinking and driving - after a fatal crash.  They testified Vang admitted to being under the influence of intoxicating substances, when authorities say he drove into 20-year old UW-Madison student Wenxin Huai during the early evening on South Park Street April 15.
 

"It was chaotic, there were people, people flagging us down, flagging down police officers as we arrived,"  testified Officer Nathan Becker.  "I observed a gray, sport utility vehicle that apparently had gone off the roadway and onto the sidewalk and struck a utility pole head on."

Officer Deanna Reilly testified Vang's screeching, speeding car also injured one of Huai's friends, who tried in vain to move her to safety.

Berz ruled there was sufficient evidence to bind over Vang.  Several of Vang's family members attended the court session, some of them emotional at times.  Several people close to Huai also were present in the court gallery.

During Vang's initial court appearance last month, nearly two dozen primarily UW international students protested outside court what they feel is the state's lenient drunk driving laws.  The court gallery was silent Wednesday.

Vang's attorney asked for a reduction in his $100,000 bail to a signature bond.  Berz rejected allowing Vang the possibility of going free without posting any cash bail, but reduced bail to $10,000.  She did continue bail conditions barring Vang from drinking alcohol, driving, or leaving Dane County.  Berz also required Vang to be electronically monitored, if he posted bail and left the Dane County jail.

Authorities also say Vang had methamphetamine on him at the time of the fatal crash, and one of the criminal charges against him reflects that.  Reilly testified authorities are still waiting for the results of toxicology tests to determine if Vang was under the influence of any drugs.

Vang has a previous drunk driving conviction.

 

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