Hollywood Director Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter Charges After Death of Crew Member on Set
Director Randall Miller pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of a crew member on the set. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for the death of camera assistant, Sarah Jones. Miller will likely serve two years of his sentence, followed by several years of probation.
A Preventable Accident
Miller co-wrote and began directing the movie, Midnight Rider, based on the autobiography of singer, Gregg Allman. The film crew was in a remote area of Georgia, scheduled to perform a camera test. Prosecutors believe that the camera test was actually an attempt to film a large part of the movie without proper authorization.
On February 20, 2014, the film crew was shooting on a railroad bridge high above the Altamaha River. Miller had requested permission to shoot on the tracks from railroad company, CSX, but the request was denied in writing twice. Nevertheless, Miller assured the cast and crew that the tracks were safe, and instructed them to begin filming on the live tracks.
During the filming, a CSX train came around the corner at 58 miles per hour. The cast and crew had less than a minute to get out of the way of the train before it struck people and equipment on the tracks. The train struck a heavy, metal hospital bed being filmed in the scene. The bed exploded and caused shrapnel and debris to fly everywhere. Sarah Jones was struck by a piece of debris, and killed instantly when thrown into the path of the train. Seven other cast and crew members were taken to the hospital with injuries.
Multiple Legal Repercussions
Initially, the studio blamed the train company for the accident. However, Georgia’s Wayne County’s Sheriff’s Office released a report blaming the director, who had been denied permission to film on the tracks multiple times. Jones’ death was then investigated as a negligent homicide.
The production company initially halted production, but then applied for new permits to resume filming shortly after the accident. Several people involved in the accident and the film filed civil lawsuits against Miller and the production company to prevent filming from resuming, including actor, William Hurt, who was playing the lead role of Gregg Allman, and Gregg Allman himself. It is unclear if film production will continue.
The family of Sarah Jones filed wrongful death suits against multiple parties, many of which were settled privately.
After an investigation, Miller, co-producer and co-writer, Jody Savin, and executive producer, Jay Sedrish, were arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. Miller and Sedrish accepted plea bargains shortly before trial, and charges against Savin were dropped as part of Miller’s plea deal. Sedrish was sentenced to ten years of probation.
In addition to probation and jail time for Miller, both Savin and Miller are prohibited from working as directors or assistant directors for the next ten years.
Safety For Sarah
The family and friends of Sarah Jones created an organization called Safety for Sarah, which works to promote safety in the film industry. The organization has created an internship and a training program, both of which the group hopes will promote safety in the film industry and prevent another tragic accident.
The attorneys at Pierce Law Group LLP help producers, directors, and entertainment companies navigate complicated legal issues. If you need advice or representation about an issue on your film, speak with an experienced California entertainment lawyer. Pierce Law Group LLP can help you negotiate tricky situations, and will assist you in making sure that your film complies with applicable state and federal regulations.
For a free initial consultation, contact Pierce Law Group LLP today by calling (310) 274-9191.
You might also like
- Digital Fingerprints for Copyrighted Works: Understanding Copyright Management Information
- NFL Players Take On Fantasy Football Site Over Right Of Publicity Claims
- Investors Claim Voltage Pictures Hid Foreign Profits, Misrepresented Proceeds Owed From Dallas Buyers Club
- Can A Studio Be Responsible For Failing To Prevent Off-Set Violence? Family Of Man Killed By Suge Knight Cites Insufficient Security As Reason For Death