Walmart Truck Driver Indicted, Port Truck Drivers Awardedby Jana Ritter - Published: 12/23/2015
It’s going to be a blue Christmas for Kevin Roper. Today the Walmart truck driver was indicted by a New Jersey grand jury on charges of manslaughter, vehicular homicide and aggravated assault for the now infamous crash that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed passenger, James McNair. The indictment comes as the long awaited response to Roper’s legal counsel who had asked the court to have the initial charges dismissed. David Glassman had filed the motion saying that his client could not receive a fair trial given the extensive and ongoing media coverage, along with the civil settlements that may also bias the criminal case.
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The crash took place on the New Jersey Turnpike in June 2014 as Morgan and several other passengers inside a limousine van were returning to New York City after a performance in Delaware. Prosecutors allege that Roper had not slept for over 24 hours before the crash and that fatigue had played a major role in crashing his tractor-trailer into the passenger van. According to court documents, Roper did not see that traffic ahead was moving slowly until it was too late, and crashed into the back of the van. In addition to killing McNair and severely injuring Morgan, two other comedians, Ardie Fuqua and Harris Stanton, and Mr. Morgan’s assistant, Jeff Millea, were also injured in the crash. Roper had initially been charged with vehicular homicide just days after the incident and he pleaded not guilty. Then, a Superior Court judge had ruled that a grand jury would decide if the case against Roper should proceed. Today, the grand jury made that decision.
Meanwhile on the west coast, 38 port truck drivers are enjoying a little more Christmas cheer as the California Labor Commissioner awarded them $6.9 million back pay in wage theft claims. In fact, the ruling comes as a promising victory for all port truck drivers and it’s the first time that the Labor Commissioner has issued back-to-back hearings for individual wage theft claims at one company. It was officially determined that 38 port truck drivers who work for Pacific 9 Transportation (Pac 9) are employees, not independent contractors as the company claimed. The ruling subsequently ordered Pac 9 to pay the 38 employees a collective amount of $6.9 million in stolen wages, determining that Pac 9 owes unlawful deductions, liquidated damages, business expenses, meal and rest periods and interest and waiting time penalties to the drivers.
“We have finally had our day in court and we are extremely grateful that the government has realized that it isn’t just a handful of drivers that are misclassified – it is all of us. We aren’t going to back down now. We will continue suing and striking these companies until they end their unfair treatment and the industry abandons the misclassification scheme that allows these trucking companies to steal our wages and defraud the government,” said Daniel Linares, one of the Pac 9 misclassified port truck drivers.