Mequon teen pleads no contest in fatal crash

Published on: 4/14/2011

A Mequon girl pleaded no contest Thursday to negligent homicide in the September crash that killed her passenger, friend and fellow Homestead High School senior Sydney Tabakin.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend that Madeline Kudlata, 17, serve one year in jail, with work and school release, as a condition of a probation sentence. Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Kevin Martens explained to the tearful teenager that he is not bound by the recommendation and could sentence her to up to five years in prison and five years of extended supervision at her sentencing June 24.

Tabakin, a popular member of Homestead's dance squad and a rugby player on an area club, was riding in the rear seat of Kudlata's SUV when it rolled over on the ramp to U.S. Highway 41 from eastbound I-94 on the morning of Sept. 18. Tabakin was not wearing a seat belt.

Kudlata and another front seat passenger were not seriously injured. Kudlata was initially ticketed for driving too fast for conditions and having an open container of alcohol in her car, but was charged with homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle in January. As part of the plea agreement, the traffic citations were dismissed.

Witnesses told investigators that Kudlata was disposing of liquor bottles at the scene. A blood test showed traces of the active ingredient in marijuana, but no alcohol.

Tabakin's parents have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Kudlata and her insurance company. Their attorney, Rick Domnitz, who was present in court with the couple Thursday, said after the hearing that the civil case is really to find out all the facts of the incident and make sure Kudlata is held completely accountable.

He also wanted to note that Sydney had no traces of alcohol or any illicit drugs in her blood.

Her parents have pledged $10,000 a year for the next 10 years to extend the hours of the Homestead High School writing lab, which has been renamed the Sydney Lauren Tabakin Writing Lab.