Filmmakers in Ga. train crash go briefly to jail

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Two filmmakers charged with involuntary manslaughter several months after a train crash killed a member of their movie crew flew to Georgia over the weekend to turn themselves in at a rural jail, where they posted $25,000 bond apiece before returning home to California, their defense attorney said Tuesday.

"Midnight Rider" director Randall Miller and his wife and business partner, Jody Savin, were booked Sunday at the Wayne County jail about 60 miles southwest of Savannah, said the couple's defense attorney, Don Samuel. The amount of their bond had been approved prior to their arrival, allowing them to report to jail quickly and quietly.

"They were in and out in 30 minutes," Samuel said.

Miller, Savin and executive producer Jay Sedrish were indicted July 3 on charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing in connection with the crash that occurred the day the filmmakers began shooting a movie based on the life of singer Gregg Allman.

On Feb. 20, a freight train plowed into the crew as well as a metal-framed bed placed across the tracks as a prop on a railroad bridge spanning the Altamaha River. A camera assistant, 27-year-old Sarah Jones of Atlanta, was killed and six other crew members were injured.

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 Railroad denied them access, the indictment says.

Wayne County sheriff's investigators have said the filmmakers had permission from forest-products company Rayonier to shoot on its property surrounding the train tracks, but did not have permission from CSX Railroad to be on the actual tracks.

Sedrish, who is also based in California, was still making arrangements to return to Georgia to turn himself in, said his attorney, John Ossick.

It could be a while before the three defendants appear in a Georgia courtroom. Miller and Savin will likely waive their right to appear before a judge for arraignment, Samuel said, and let their attorney handle their pleadings in writing instead.

"They're not going to fly back to court just to say 'not guilty,'" Samuel said. "They are absolutely pleading not guilty."

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

Production on "Midnight Rider" was halted after the crash. Allman filed a civil lawsuit against Miller and Savin seeking to prevent them from restarting the project. They settled out of court without disclosing the terms.

Miller previously directed the 2008 film "Bottle Shock" as well as "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School" in 2005, "Noble Son" in 2007 and "CGBG" last year. He and Savin have their own independent production company, Unclaimed Freight Productions, based in Pasadena, California.

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