NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The truck driver who slammed into a limo carrying Tracy Morgan, killing one man and severely injuring the comedian, will ask a judge next week to throw out criminal charges against him.
Kevin Roper was driving a Wal-Mart truck in June 2014 when he crashed into Morgan’s limo van. The former “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” star suffered brain trauma, broken ribs and a broken leg, and his friend James McNair was killed. Two other passengers also suffered serious injuries.
Within days, Roper was charged in state court with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto, though as of Friday he hadn’t been indicted, said his attorney, David Glassman.
Glassman told The Associated Press he will ask a judge in Middlesex County on Tuesday to dismiss the case because Roper is unable to get a fair trial because of negative publicity surrounding Morgan’s federal lawsuit against Wal-Mart.
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Morgan settled with Wal-Mart this 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.
“Civil cases are routinely stayed for criminal cases to proceed,” Glassman said in an email. “Had that occurred and a stay issued in the civil case, a tsunami of negative pretrial publicity would have been avoided and Roper’s right to a fair trial would have been preserved.”
Glassman also criticized the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office for not stepping in and seeking a stay in the federal lawsuit.
“A prosecutor can’t stand by while this occurs, and then seek to cash in by way of a speedy plea or conviction,” he said.
A spokesman for the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded in August that Roper hadn’t slept during the previous 28 hours and failed to slow down immediately before the crash, despite posted warning signs on the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury.
The board also said the failure of Morgan and other passengers in the limo van to wear seat belts and adjust headrests contributed to the severity of their injuries.
Glassman told the AP at the time the report was released that the NTSB did not have all the facts since it did not speak to Roper. He called the assertion that Roper had gone without sleep for more than 28 hours “factually wrong.”
Follow David Porter at http://twitter.com/DavidPorter_AP