EXCLUSIVE: Lawyers for Film Allman LLC have appealed the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission decision against the company to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta in an effort to overturn a judge’s decision that it must pay about $75K in fines in the on-set death of one crew member and injuries to several others during the first day of filming Midnight Rider. Attorneys for Film Allman filed on December 28, and they plan to argue before the court sometime this year to fight the willful safety violation and the fine.
Last fall, the OSHA Review Commission Judge Sharon Calhoun upheld OSHA’s safety violations against the company as well as the fine, stating that Film Allman’s supervising crew “misrepresented” the facts repeatedly to their own crew, which put them in harm’s way.
Film Allman was set up by filmmaker Randall Miller and his wife, producer Jody Savin, to film the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider. In their previous appeal to OSHA, Calhoun ruled that the company indeed was in violation of “one willful and one serious safety violation” in the on-set death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones and injuries to several others when they criminally trespassed and placed their crew on live tracks in Georgia to “steal a shot”.
The case will be heard in the Elbert Parr Tuttle Building in Atlanta.
The same lawyers also are trying to secure an early release from the Wayne County Detention Center for Miller, who was sentenced to two years in jail and eight years probation for felony involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. Miller could get out on March 9, but Jones’ parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, wrote a letter to both the court and to the sheriff who oversees the facility asking them to keep Miller for the full two-year sentence. That is what they agreed to.
Assistant District Attorney John Johnson filed a motion against Miller’s early release, which the state believes will be before March 9. But he stated that the state is not opposed to Miller getting out in March in a 2-for-1 deal if he fulfilled the community service aspect of the detention center. It’s up to the sheriff to determine whether Miller is released from jail on March 9.
Savin, the other principal of Film Allman, was not charged because of a deal Miller and his attorneys made with the DA’s office to save her from criminal prosecution. Under that deal, he would plead guilty and serve time.
In filing the motion to oppose the early release, the DA wrote: “To make the matter worse, he files his motion just prior to the Christmas holiday, a particularly sensitive time of year for the family who suffered the tragic loss of Sarah Jones as a result of his conduct.” They also filed the appeal to the Circuit Court during the holiday break.
It is known that lawyers for Film Allman in arguing in the 11th Circuit will say that the actions of Film Allman were not “willful” and, instead, will point the finger to Rayonier’s Tina Kicklighter who brought them to the land (while location scouting) and then escorted them onto the tracks. Despite the two denial-of-film requests from landowner CSX, they will argue that the company’s actions “were not intentional or reckless” because they believed that only two trains would pass by that afternoon on February 20, 2014, the day of Sarah Jones’s death.