Trucker in Tracy Morgan crash to appear in court amid sleep deprivation reports
(CNN) — The trucker who plowed into a bus carrying comedian Tracy Morgan will appear in court Wednesday amid accusations he’d not slept for 24 hours before the crash.
Kevin Roper will be arraigned at Middlesex County Court in New Jersey at 3 p.m. ET.
Prosecutors charged him with vehicular homicide and assault by auto in the Saturday pileup that killed comedian James McNair and injured four others in the limo bus.
Morgan, a former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and comedy series “30 Rock,” remains in critical but stable condition. Comedian Ardie Fuqua, Jeffrey Millea and Harris Stanton were also injured; the latter is the only one who has been released from the hospital.
Shortly after the accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, Roper, who drives a Walmart truck, posted $50,000 bond and was released the same night.
In criminal complaint, police said Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash. He failed to notice traffic slowing in front of him and hit Morgan’s bus despite trying to swerve out of the way, according to authorities.
It’s unclear how they determined he was sleep deprived.
Walmart said it believed he was operating within federal rest guidelines, but said it would take full responsibility if the investigation shows its truck was to blame. Federal law mandates drivers work no more than 14 hours for any shift — 11 of those driving.
“The details are the subject of the ongoing investigation and we are cooperating fully with the appropriate law enforcement agencies,” said Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Walmart.
Under New Jersey law, a driver can be convicted if there’s proof he had been without sleep for 24 hours when the accident occurred.
Proving he was sleep-deprived is crucial to get a conviction, in this case five to 10 years, legal analyst Paul Callan told CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront.
“It’s very important because otherwise, it’s just an ordinary accident,” he said. “Anybody can have an ordinary accident, we don’t take them off in handcuffs. In New Jersey, because it is so dependent on this big roads, sleep-deprivation has been recognized as a form of recklessness and it’s criminal.”
However, Callan said, proving the trucker was sleep-deprived will be the difficult part.
“Maybe you can prove he was driving for a period of time, but how do you know he didn’t pull over by the side of the road and sleep? There’s only one way to find out — and that is if he confessed to it. ”
Morgan underwent surgery for his broken leg and is likely to remain hospitalized for several weeks, his publicist Lewis Kay said.
His fianee, Megan Wollover, asked fans Tuesday to stop speculating about his health after false rumors that he could lose his leg surfaced.
“The concern for his well-being has been overwhelming, but Megan is respectfully asking that the media await official word through these channels before speculating (mostly inaccurately) on his condition,” Kay, said in a statement. “Rumors about amputating his leg are completely fabricated.”
The arraignment will be Roper’s first court appearance.
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