Court records in the ongoing wrongful death case of Sarah Jones should remain unsealed, the family of the Midnight Rider camera assistant argued today, calling rail company CSX’s attempt to stop further details from escaping into the media “groundless,” “frivolous,” “desperate” and “malicious.”
The back-and-forth between lawyers for the railroad company and the grieving Joneses has become increasingly accusatory in recent months. After Midnight Rider‘s director, producers and several other co-defendants reached a settlement with the family last month, CSX has remained the biggest — and most contentious — party still in the hot seat over Jones’ February 20 death during filming on a train trestle in rural Georgia.
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In a strongly worded November 12 motion, defendant CSX asked a Chatham County judge to seal case findings and silence the Joneses’ lawyers from talking to the press about the civil case. CSX also accused the Jones legal team of leaking train-camera footage taken the day of Jones’ death, which CSX provided to the plaintiffs during discovery. Any further release of video or photo evidence could taint the jury pool and violate CSX’s right to a fair trial, the company argued, but “no harm will come to Plaintiffs if they are made to simply stop giving proprietary evidence adduced in discovery to the media.”
Answering CSX’s claims in a filing today, lawyers for the Jones family argued that they’d simply placed three unaltered videos taken on February 20 from CSX trains into public record as exhibits in an October motion to obtain more materials from CSX. Why? Because CSX mysteriously has failed to provide potentially vital footage from a fourth train that had passed that day.
What’s more, the Jones lawyers say, it’s CSX’s fault the footage went public: The company’s lawyers failed to request a protective order on said videos before producing them. CSX “seeks these extreme measures in an inappropriate and desperate attempt to correct its own failure to utilize the proper procedure,” the Jones filing says.
The family also argues the implications for CSX’s request to the court are far more serious than they might seem. “In its motion, CSXT attempts to downplay the significance of what it actually requests: the extraordinary and rarely taken measures of sealing the public record and issuing a gag order.”
Meanwhile, Midnight Rider director Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin, unit production manager and executive producer Jay Sedrish, and 1st assistant director Hillary Schwartz are facing separate criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. A trial has been set for March 9.
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