Film director pleads guilty
JESUP, Georgia - The director of a movie about musician Gregg Allman pleaded guilty Monday in a train crash that killed a camera assistant and injured six film workers, and prosecutors in exchange dropped charges against his wife and business partner.
The case is a rare example of filmmakers being prosecuted for deaths on their sets. Furthermore, the death of Sarah Jones, 27, galvanized behind-the-scenes film workers nationwide to push for improved safety standards on sets.
As part of the plea deal, Director Randall Miller will spend two years in the county jail and another eight on probation on involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing charges. He also will pay a $20,000 fine.
Miller’s wife and business partner, Jody Savin, will no longer face the same charges.
A third defendant, executive producer Jay Sedrish, also pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing on Monday but avoided jail time. He will be allowed to serve 10 years of probation from his home in California.
In the crash a year ago, a freight train traveling 55 miles per hour plowed into the director’s crew on a Georgia railroad bridge.
CSX Transportation, the railroad company that owns the bridge where the crash occurred, has said it twice denied the filmmakers permission to shoot footage on its tracks in rural southeast Georgia. Under state law, someone can be convicted of involuntary manslaughter for committing a misdemeanor - in this case trespassing - that unintentionally causes another person to be killed.
It was the first day of shooting on “Midnight Rider’’ when Miller and his crew stepped onto the railroad bridge spanning the Altamaha River on Feb. 20, 2014. Actor William Hurt was on the set in his role as the Allman Brothers Band singer in his later years. A metal-framed bed was pulled across the tracks as a prop. When the train struck, it smashed the bed and hurled metal fragments at the fleeing crew. AP