The man who was driving the Wal-Mart truck that crashed into actor-comedian Tracy Morgan's van on the New Jersey Turnpike in 2014, killing one and injuring several others, changed his plea to guilty Nov. 29 and could avoid jail time.
Kevin Roper of Jonesboro, Georgia, accepted a plea agreement before Superior Court Judge Michael Toto in Middlesex County, New Jersey, to vehicular homicide and four counts of aggravated assault after initially pleading not guilty in February.
Roper had faced up to 30 years in prison for causing the crash, but instead accepted a three-year pre-trial intervention program, followed by 300 hours of community service. If he successfully completes the program, charges will be dismissed.
"It gives him an opportunity to go forward with his life without a conviction if he does what he's supposed to do," Roper's attorney, David Glassman, told NJ.com. "It puts his future in his own hands. He's led an exemplary life up until that one mistake. And, assuming it's going to go forward like that, he has his destiny in his own hands ... and he won't have a record."
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation said Roper had been awake for 28 hours and worked almost 14 hours at the time of the accident, leaving him so fatigued that he didn't notice traffic had slowed ahead of him on June 7, 2014.
The crash killed comedian James McNair and injured several others, including Morgan, a former star on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" who suffered a traumatic brain injury and was left in a coma for two weeks. Morgan has since recovered and is making a "Picking Up the Pieces" comedy tour.
After receiving an undisclosed settlement from Wal-Mart in May of 2015, Morgan said Wal-Mart "did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families." Earlier, Wal-Mart had reached a $10 million settlement with McNair's two children in January 2015.
Wal-Mart U.S. President Greg Foran said at the time that the company was “committed to doing what’s right to help ensure the well-being of all of those who were impacted by the accident.” Wal-Mart ranks No. 3 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.
Roper no longer works for Wal-Mart.