Wal-Mart truck driver, Kevin Roper, accused of causing a fatal crash that occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike that killed one man and injured four more, including SNL and 30 Rock alum, Tracy Morgan, plead not guilty in court on Wednesday. Prosecutors allege that Roper, 35, had been driving without having slept for over 24 hours, and that this was a significant factor in causing the accident that happened on Saturday morning.
According to NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel, though Kevin Roper lives in Jonesboro, Georgia, he is employed in Delaware, making for a very long commute to work.
Roper was allegedly driving too fast for the slower traffic ahead of him, and swerved to avoid running into the back of one of the cars. Instead, by swerving, he slammed into the back of the Mercedes Sprinter limo bus that Tracy Morgan and some of his fellow comedians and employees were riding in. He and the others were coming back to New York City, where Morgan lives, from a comedy club in Delaware.
Wal-Mart President Bill Simon has issued a statement saying that the company would take “full responsibility” for the crash if it’s determined that the Wal-Mart driver involved was at fault. However, Wal-Mart has not released details about what the route that Kevin Roper drove was, and the company has issued a statement that says it believes Roper had not violated federal safety regulations. The regulations state that truck drivers must spend at least 10 hours not behind the wheel of a truck before their shift starts, and that a shift can not be more than 14 hours long.
Kevin Roper was charged with assault by auto and vehicular homicide. At the New Brunswick, New Jersey courthouse where the proceedings took place, Judge Bradley Ferencz remarked that as Kevin Roper had a driving record that was clean previous to the accident, his bail would remain at $50,000. Roper, represented by his attorney, David Glassman, plead not guilty to the charges and causing the fatal crash that also injured Tracy Morgan. They did not respond to the questions of reporters about tweets that were sent out from a Twitter account in Kevin Roper’s name and photo, in which he allegedly wrote that statements claiming he hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours previous to the fatal wreck were “BS.”
In another tweet posted at the Twitter account, Roper — or someone using his name and photo — railed against the media, saying that they wouldn’t all be at his trial if a “FAMOUS PERSON” wasn’t involved in the accident. Part of the tweet stated: “Did the media show up for all the other ACCIDENTS this year that a driver was charged with a crime?” There were a total of five tweets about the accident and Roper’s innocence on the Twitter account.
If Kevin Roper is found guilty of the charge of death by auto, he could receive a prison sentence of five to 10 years. Also, the assault by auto charges could potentially net Roper up to an additional 18 months for each charge.
Comedian Tracy Morgan, 45, sustained a broken nose, several fractured ribs, and a broken femur in the crash that resulted in the death of his friend and mentor, James “Jimmy Mack” McNair. Morgan successfully had surgery performed on his broken leg early Monday morning. Besides the driver of the limo bus, who wasn’t injured in the accident, three other passengers were traveling in the vehicle, two of whom suffered serious injuries.
According to a hospital spokesperson, the conditions of the two others who suffered serious injuries — comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr., 43, and Jeffrey Millea, 36, Tracy Morgan’s assistant — are still listed as being critical but stable.
Tracy Morgan, according to FX Networks, will have a new half-hour comedy series on the FXX network. The series was set to began production this August and premiere in January. FX Networks stated that it had made no changes to that original plan, and the series will still be ready for him once he mends from his injuries.
Rumors circulated that Tracy Morgan, who was injured in the fatal crash which was allegedly caused by Wal-Mart truck driver, Kevin Roper, had to have his injured leg amputated. The rumors prompted Lewis Kay, a rep for Morgan, to make a statement that the rumors were “completely fabricated.” Tracy Morgan is expected to remain in the hospital for several more weeks, recovering from the multiple injuries he suffered. Megan Wollover, Morgan’s fiancée, has been by the comedian’s side throughout much of the aftermath of the multi-vehicle accident. They had a daughter together in July 2013. Though Kevin Roper plead not guilty at the preliminary hearing on Wednesday, his trial date for when the case will be heard has not yet been announced.
Written by: Douglas Cobb