Greg Allman biopic death leads to two year prison sentence

April 2015


Film, TV


The director of the ill-fated Gregg Allman biopic has issued a statement after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. Randall Miller was prosecuted over the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones while filming ‘Midnight Rider‘, a movie based on Allman’s autobiography. The crew had been preparing to film on a railway bridge when a train unexpectedly appeared, hitting a metal framed bed that had been placed on the tracks, injuring six and killing Jones. Miller agreed to a last minute plea bargain ahead of his trial which meant that producer Jody Savin, who is also Miller’s wife, had charges against her dropped, Miller received a two year jail sentence. He also agreed to serve an additional eight years on probation and pay a $20,000 fine.Executive Producer Jay Sedrish agreed to ten years probation. Miller’s statement reads:
“On 20 Feb 2014, a great number of mistakes were made and the terrible accident occurred which took Sarah Jones’ life. It was a horrible tragedy that will haunt me forever. Although I relied on my team, it is ultimately my responsibility and was my decision to shoot the scripted scene that caused this tragedy.

I pleaded guilty for three reasons: first, to protect my wife and family; second, out of respect for the Jones family and to not put them through a difficult trial; and, third, to take responsibility for my failure in not knowing that every safety measure was in place.

The location manager, the production designer, the unit production manager, the cinematographer, assistant director and others all made mistakes that led to this, but I have taken responsibility because I could have asked more questions, and I was the one in charge. I have worked in the film industry as a director for 25 years and never had a significant accident of any kind on any one of my sets.

I am heartbroken over this. I hope my actions have spared the Jones family more anguish and that the on-set safety measures that were lacking before this terrible tragedy will now take precedence for all in the industry.”

Prosecutors said all three defendants knew that CSX Transportation, which owned the trestle spanning the Altamaha River, had denied them permission in writing to film on its tracks. Miller decided to shoot the scene anyway, Assistant District Attorney John B Johnson said, after the owner of the property surrounding the tracks said the movie crew could access its land. He said Miller and his crew went onto the railroad bridge after mistakenly thinking no more trains would pass that day.

“We hope the sacrifice of our daughter’s life will continue to change the film industry,” 
Jones’ father, Richard Jones, told reporters outside the courthouse. “I believe it sends a message, frankly, that if you do not respect those you’re in charge of, you may end up behind bars.”

Charges are still pending against a fourth defendant, assistant director Hillary Schwartz. Prosecutors planned to try her after the other three. and

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