UPDATE 1-Truck driver in Tracy Morgan crash pleads not guilty

Wed Jun 11, 2014 4:11pm EDT

(Updates with not guilty pleas)

By DAVID JONES

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., June 11 (Reuters) - A Georgia truck driver pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of vehicular manslaughter and assault by auto in connection with a pileup on a New Jersey highway that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another comic.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc delivery driver Kevin Roper, 35, who was arraigned in New Brunswick, New Jersey, had not slept in more than 24 hours when he triggered the fatal crash, according to prosecutors.

Roper, dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, said little during the brief court hearing, but answered: "Yes" when the judge asked if he understood the charges.

His attorney, David Glassman, entered the pleas of not guilty.

Roper is accused of failing to see traffic slowing in front of him on the New Jersey Turnpike and slamming into the back of a limousine van carrying Morgan, best known for roles on "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live," and several of his associates.

The chain-reaction crash early on Saturday involved six vehicles and left a passenger in the limo van, comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair, dead.

Morgan and two other van passengers were critically injured and remain hospitalized in New Jersey. A fourth limo passenger was injured less severely.

Morgan's spokesman, Lewis Kay, said on Tuesday the 45-year-old entertainer "remains in critical but stable condition," and was making a slow recovery from injuries including a broken leg, nose and ribs.

Wal-Mart has promised to cooperate in the state and federal investigation into the crash and said its drivers were among the safest on the road.

Roper remains free on $50,000 bail. The judge did not announce the next court date. (Reporting by David Jones; Writing by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Scott Malone, Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)