4th UPDATE, AUGUST 18, 7:58 AM: Jay Sedrish, the executive producer/unit production manager of the ill-fated Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider, waived his right for an arraignment early this morning and has entered a not guilty plea to criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter in the on-set death of 27-year-old assistant camera assistant Sarah Jones. She died on the first day of shooting the picture in Georgia, on February 20, after a train hit a metal bed that was placed on the tracks to film a dream sequence. Several others were injured by flying debris. Sedrish, director Randall Miller and Miller’s wife/producer Jody Savin were all criminally charged in the matter. Miller and Savin entered not guilty pleas last month.
Sedrish’s not guilty plea, which was entered early this morning to the Superior Court of Wayne County by his attorney John Ossick, comes only a week after the U.S. Department of Labor cited the production for one willful and one serious safety violation. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels stated at the time, “It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle” and that “employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers’ health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception.”
The safety violations were cited by OSHA on August 14th, and the company has until August. 29th to pay a proposed $74,900 fine or contest the violations. Two days before, on August 12th, lawyers for Film Allman went into Los Angeles Superior court and sued the production’s insurer (New York Marine) over $1.6 million in denied insurance claims. The suitstated that script revisions submitted to the insurance company which altered project’s focus away from Allman’s life and onto a 1970s rock and roll story led the insurer to argue that since it was a new production, it was not covered under the original agreement that insured the Allman biopic.
“Even worse,” states Film Allman’s complaint, “New York Marine unjustifiably has taken the position that the policy no longer will insure Midnight Rider on a forward-going basis and has threatened to cancel the policy altogether, thereby leaving Film Allman without any insurance coverage for the restarted production. As a result, Film Allman is now saddled with over $1.6 million in losses and the prospect of having to abandon Midnight Rider entirely in light of New York Marine’s stated intention of cancelling the film’s insurance policy.”
3RD UPDATE, AUGUST 1, 11:49 AM: An arraignment date has been set for Midnight Rider executive producer/unit production manager Jay Sedrish who has yet to enter a plea on the charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. He will be arraigned on August 21 and is expected in court at that time, according to the District Attorney’s office in Georgia which is handling the case. Randall Miller and Jody Savin entered Not Guilty pleas last month saying that in their opinions, the death of the 27-year old camera assistant Sarah Jones on the GA set of the Gregg Allman biopic was “a horrible tragedy and horrible accident” but did not rise to the level of a crime. Specifically, they stated: “In the weeks and months that follow when the true facts of the events are revealed, people will know that this was not a crime: we never had criminal intent; we would never knowingly or intentionally put anybody’s safety at risk.” The charge of involuntary manslaughter actually takes intent into account.
Specifically, according to the indictment of Miller, Savin and Sedrish, on Feb. 20th of this year it is alleged under the Involuntary Manslaughter count they “did unlawfully cause the death of Sarah E. Jones, a human being, without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony, to wit: Criminal Trespass …” If convicted, they face a maximum of ten years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter charge and another year for criminal trespassing (which is considered a misdemeanor). Sedrish’s attorney was unavailable to comment Friday.
2ND UPDATE, JULY 17, 9:57 AM: Midnight Rider executive producer/unit production manager Jay Sedrish turned himself in this morning to the Wayne County, GA police and was booked and released after posting a $27,700 bond. This comes after his fellow filmmakers Randall Miller and Jody Savin turned themselves in earlier this week. All three were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones. They were also charged with criminal trespassing for filming on a train trestle when, according to police, they had no permit to shoot on the tracks.
One of the key points in the case is that Wayne County Sheriff Sgt. Ben Roberston, in his initial report about the incident, wrote: “In my presence, Mr. Sedrish was asked by an employee of CSX if he had permission to be on the trestle or tracks and Mr. Sedrish replied, ‘That’s complicated.’ According to the CSX employee, the production company had previously been denied permission to film on the trestle, and there was electronic correspondence to verify that fact.”
UPDATE, JULY 15, 6:57 AM: As of this morning, Midnight Rider executive producer/unit production manager director Jay Sedrish has not yet turned himself in, but we are told he has another week and that arrangements are being made to meet that timetable. Director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin, who along with Sedrish, could face 10 years in prison for the tragic on-set death of camera assistant Sarah Jones.
PREVIOUS, JULY 14, 12:10 AM: Midnight Rider director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin turned themselves in to police Sunday in Georgia following their July 3 grand jury indictments in the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones. The two posted a $27,700 bond and were released, a Wayne County Sheriff’s Department rep confirmed to Deadline. Miller, Savin, and Sedrish were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing by prosecutors in Wayne County following a months-long investigation by local authorities.
Jones was killed outside of Jesup, GA on February 20 when she was struck by a freight train as she and others ran for their lives during the filming of a scene that involved placing a metal hospital bed (that was to have star William Hurt in it) on live train tracks. It was one of the most egregious tragedies on a movie set in recent memory, because they were not permitted to be on the tracks. Several other crew members were also injured in the accident. The film’s crew members were on the CSX railroad-owned tracks of the Doctortown train trestle for the shoot by Unclaimed Freight Productions Inc., the production company owned by Miller and Savin. The tragedy has created an outcry for reforms in productions and safety on movie sets.
Under Georgia law, a manslaughter conviction would carry a sentence of 10 years in prison. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor and carries potential sentence of one year.