Thursday 12 December 2019

Midnight Rider director indicted

Director Randall Miller faces charges stemming from a fatal train crash during the filming of Midnight Rider
Director Randall Miller faces charges stemming from a fatal train crash during the filming of Midnight Rider

Midnight Rider director Randall Miller has been indicted on criminal charges stemming from a fatal crash that took place on set of the film.

The biopic, which was due to star William Hurt as rock musician Gregg Allman, has been abandoned since the train crash in February, which killed a camera assistant and injured six others.

Director Randall Miller; his wife and business partner, Jody Savin; and the film's executive producer, Jay Sedrish, have all been charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass.

Authorities have said Miller and his crew were filming on a railroad bridge without a permit on February 20 when a freight train ploughed into them.

Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed, and six others were injured. Miller has said previously he didn't know his crew was working on a live train trestle.

Jones' parents, who have filed their own civil lawsuit against the three indicted filmmakers and others, stopped short of praising the decision to seek a criminal prosecution.

"Elizabeth and I are comfortable that the authorities were both careful and meticulous in investigating and bringing charges related to the incident that took our daughter's life," Richard Jones, the young woman's father, said in a statement. "We must allow the criminal justice process to proceed unhindered. Our mission remains the same: to ensure safety on all film sets."

Sheriff's investigators have said filmmakers had permission to be on property surrounding the tracks from the landowner, forest-products company Rayonier, but lacked permission from CSX Railroad to be filming on the actual train tracks.

The indictment charges Miller, Savin and Sedrish with unintentionally causing Jones' death by trespassing onto the railroad bridge. The filmmakers went onto the train trestle even after CSX denied them access, the indictment said.

Donnie Dixon, an attorney for Miller and Savin, said he had no comment on the charges. It was not immediately known whether Sedrish had an attorney.

Three civil lawsuits, including the one by Jones' parents, related to the train crash are pending. Miller bristled at the suggestion that he was cavalier about his crew's safety when he took the witness stand during a court appearance in May. He said his assistants were in charge of securing location permits, and that crew members were along the track to look out for trains during filming.

"I did not know it was a live train trestle," Miller said. "We were told there were two trains from Rayonier coming through, and no more trains that day."

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison under Georgia law. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanour punishable by no more than a year in prison.

None of the accused filmmakers, who live in California, have been arrested. They will likely be allowed to travel to Georgia and turn themselves in at a later date, said Joe Gardner, the lead sheriff's investigator in the case.

PA Media

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