Janesville woman pleads no contest in fatal accident
Sara L. McGrath, 27, pleaded no contest in Oneida County Court to a felony count of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and a misdemeanor charge of endangering safety by the dangerous use of a weapon.
McGrath initially faced a felony charge of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.
According to the court records, McGrath was driving a yellow Corvette more than 100 mph along Highway 70 on May 2, 2009, when she lost control at a curve.
Her passenger, Mary Frantz, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene. McGrath, who was living in Minocqua at the time of the accident, was injured.
The plea agreement worked out between McGrath’s attorney and Oneida County District Attorney Michael Bloom includes a one-year deferred judgment agreement, which allows for the dismissal of felony count if she stays out of trouble.
The deal also calls for a one-year delay in sentencing on the misdemeanor count so McGrath can finish nursing school in Oklahoma. She is scheduled to be sentenced on that charge Aug. 12, 2011. Until then, she remains under the conditions of a signature bond.
On the day of the crash, McGrath, a bartender, was given permission to leave her job so she could drive the Corvette that belonged to Frantz, according to court records. When she failed to return to close the bar, her employer got worried and called police.
An interview referenced in court records indicates McGrath and Frantz stopped at another bar before the accident, but McGrath said she drank only part of a beer while there.
McGrath told police she didn’t remember how fast she was driving at the time of the crash, but a reconstruction expert concluded the vehicle reached speeds as high as 117 mph.
Bloom said speed would be the only evidence the prosecution could present to show McGrath was negligent.
Bloom said one of the vehicle’s tires was found to have abnormal wear, making it unclear as to what role the tire may have played in the accident.
“While the state believes that this was certainly a (case that could go to trial) … there would be a genuine issue at trial as to whether the defendant’s conduct was criminally negligent or whether she was guilty of only ordinary negligence,” he said.
Bloom, who noted McGrath lacked a prior criminal record, said the victim’s family played a “significant factor” in deciding not to bring the case to trial.
Frantz’s father, who appeared in court, said his family forgave McGrath for the car crash that led to his daughter’s death.
“We humbly forgive her for whatever the cause was,” he said.
In accepting the plea agreement, McGrath acknowledged she “did something that put somebody else’s life in danger.”
“I drove too fast,” she said.