Ex-Walmart truck driver indicted in Tracy Morgan crash pleads not guilty

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Monday, February 1, 2016
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Toni Yates is reporting live in New Brunswick

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (WABC) -- The man charged in a deadly crash that left comedian Tracy Morgan in a coma was arraigned Monday afternoon.

Former Walmart truck driver Kevin Roper pleaded not guilty to aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide and aggravated assault stemming from the June 2014 incident on the New Jersey Turnpike.

His tractor-trailer ran into the back of Morgan's limo, killing Morgan's friend and fellow comedian James McNair.

Roper's attorney, David Glassman, has claimed Walmart's settlement of Morgan's lawsuit generated publicity that harmed the Jonesboro, Georgia, resident's chance for a fair trial.

Federal investigators said Roper hadn't slept for 28 hours before the crash. His lawyer disputes that and is arguing to have the charges thrown out.

The report concluded Roper failed to slow down immediately before the crash, despite posted warning signs on the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury.

The board also faulted Morgan and other passengers in the limo van for not wearing seat belts and adjusting headrests, which it said contributed to the severity of their injuries.

Morgan settled with Walmart last summer for an undisclosed amount. Roper wasn't a defendant in that lawsuit, but he filed motions in federal court seeking to have it delayed until after his criminal case was resolved. Those motions were rejected.

Roper is due back in court on April 15.