December 19, 2015 / 1:35 AM / 2 years ago

Wal-Mart driver in Tracy Morgan crash to seek dismissal: lawyer

Comedian Tracy Morgan smiles as he speaks to a reporter as he arrives for the Mark Twain prize for Humor honoring Eddie Murphy at the Kennedy Center in Washington October 18, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer for the Wal-Mart truck driver involved in a 2014 crash that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed his friend said on Friday he would ask a New Jersey judge next week to dismiss all criminal charges against his client.

Kevin Roper’s rights were violated, his attorney David Glassman said, because a federal court refused to allow him to ask for a stay in a civil suit that the “Saturday Night Live” entertainer brought against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Such stays are routinely granted while related criminal matters are pending, Glassman said.

If the court had allowed Roper to intervene, “a tsunami of negative pre-trial publicity would have been avoided and Roper’s right to a fair trial would have been preserved,” Glassman said in an email to Reuters.

Roper’s hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Middlesex County Superior Court in New Brunswick.

The June 2014 accident on the New Jersey Turnpike left Morgan, now 47, with a serious head injury and broken bones and put him in a coma.

His friend and fellow comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair was killed when the tractor-trailer truck driven by Roper plowed into the rear end of a limousine bus in which Morgan and six others were riding. Nine others were also injured in the chain-reaction collision.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board issued a report in August that found Roper responsible. It said the truck driver had not slept for 28 hours when the early-morning accident occurred, a finding that Glassman denies.

Roper, a Georgia resident who was 35 when the accident occurred, faces charges of vehicular homicide and assault by auto, though Glassman said indictments have yet to be handed down.

Glassman said the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office rebuffed him when he asked it to intervene with the federal court to request the stay.

“A prosecutor can’t stand by while this occurs, and then seek to cash in by way of a speedy plea or conviction after a year of negative publicity,” Glassman said.

The Middlesex County prosecutor could not be reached immediately for comment.

In September, Wal-Mart Stores Inc settled a suit brought by Morgan and two others for undisclosed terms. It earlier settled with McNair’s family.

A month later, the comedian made a emotional return as guest host of “Saturday Night Live,” the NBC comedy sketch show where he was a regular cast member from 1996 to 2003.

Editing by Leslie Adler

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