Kong Vang in court

Kong Vang, right, appears in court Thursday with his lawyer, Eric Schulenburg. 

Before a courtroom packed with his friends and family members, a man who struck and killed a UW-Madison student from China pleaded no contest Thursday to homicide by intoxicated driving and two other felonies.

Kong Vang, 33, of Madison, now faces up to 53½ years of prison and extended supervision when he is sentenced in February by Dane County Circuit Judge John Hyland. 

Vang pleaded no contest to homicide by drunken driving for the April 15 death of Wenxin "Wendy" Huai, 24, who was struck by Vang's SUV after it jumped onto the sidewalk on South Park Street near West Washington Avenue. Vang also pleaded no contest to second-degree reckless endangerment, for also striking Haonan Ge on the leg as he tried to push Huai out of the SUV's path.

In addition, Vang pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine. 

Vang will remain free on bail until his Feb. 22 sentencing hearing. No sentencing recommendations were mentioned by Assistant District Attorney Bryce Pierson as he recited the terms of a plea agreement. Under the agreement, seven other charges against Vang were dismissed, but can be considered by Hyland as he formulates a sentence for Vang.

According to a criminal complaint, Ge told police that he and Huai were walking north on South Park Street when Vang's Nissan Armada barreled toward them from West Washington Avenue. When it jumped the sidewalk, Ge said that he pushed Huai with his left hand and jumped to his right, but she was struck by the SUV.

Witnesses walking behind Ge and Huai told police that they saw the SUV turn left from West Washington Avenue onto South Park Street, move to avoid a stopped vehicle and then hit the curb and strike two people. The SUV then struck a utility pole. 

When police searched Vang's clothing later at UW Hospital, where he failed a standard impairment test, they found a small baggie containing methamphetamine. 

Huai, who was also taken to UW Hospital, died from blunt force trauma to the head, torso and lower extremities. Huai was from Beijing and graduated from Peking University before coming to UW-Madison in 2015. She was to have received her master's degree in economics in May, and also worked on campus as a research assistant in UW's Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory. 

At Vang's initial court appearance in April, a prosecutor said that police had found pictures on Vang's cellphone of Vang and others earlier the day of the crash drinking in Vang's SUV while they were driving.

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Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.