Wal-Mart truck-driver Kevin Roper pled not guilty today to one count of vehicular homicide and four counts of assault by auto in the accident that left comedian Tracy Morgan in critical condition.
According to NJ.com, today’s arraignment lasted only five minutes with Roper’s attorney entering the not guilty plea. Roper remains free on $50,000 bail.
Police say Roper’s truck struck a limo van carrying comedian Tracy Morgan and several other cars that had slowed in the northbound lanes of the turnpike between exits 8 and 8A on early Saturday morning.
The 45-year-old Morgan suffered a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs. He underwent surgery and remains in critical but stable condition.
His friend and fellow comedian James McNair was killed, and two other passengers were seriously injured. Another passenger was treated and released from the hospital Saturday, and the limo driver and one more passenger weren’t injured.
Roper and his attorney, David Glassman, refused to answer reporters’ questions after the hearing about whether Roper was the author of tweets from a Twitter account bearing his name and featuring his picture and calling reports of his not having slept for 24 hours before the accident “complete BS!”
A conviction on a death by auto charge carries a five-to-10-year prison sentence. Each assault by auto charge is punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
Accident investigators are looking into what whether the Roper’s designated route could have contributed to driver-fatigue. NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel says that Roper lived in Georgia, but his job was based in Delaware.
Citing the criminal investigation, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman wouldn’t say where Roper’s trip had originated or where he was headed at the time of the crash. The company has said it believes he was in compliance with federal safety regulations.
TV show on-hold
FX Networks issued a statement saying Morgan’s new TV series, a half-hour comedy scheduled to start filming in August for a January premiere on the FXX network, would be waiting for him once he’s well.