Although two attorneys for Midnight Rider director Randall Miller have submitted affidavits that there is an open FBI investigation into “probable civil rights violations” and “the possible wrongful prosecution and incarceration of Mr. Miller,” many of the key players involved in the criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter trial that put Miller behind bars have, to date, not been contacted by anyone from the FBI.
The introduction of the FBI into the mix come from affidavits from Miller’s attorneys included in a new round of court filings as Film Allman, LLC attorneys seek relief from partial summary judgment awarded by the civil court judge to the insurance company New York Marine. The two have been involved in an ongoing lawsuit as they wrestle with legal liability.
Film Allman, LLC was set up by writer-producer-director Miller and his wife/producer Jody Savin to film their Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider. Miller served a little more than a year in jail after pleading guilty to criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter for his part in the death of his 27-year-old crew member, camera assistant Sarah Jones. Several others were also injured when the director brought his crew on live train tracks on a Georgia bridge without permission from owner CSX.
Miller is now one year into a 10-year probation where he is “prohibited from serving as director, first assistant director or supervisor with responsibility for safety in any film production.” Savin was also charged at the time, but those charges were dropped as part of Miller’s plea agreement.
Two of Miller’s attorneys (one from the criminal trial) gave Film Allman affidavits stating that they spoke to the FBI; those were included as exhibits in the May 20, 2017 motion. Film Allman attorneys are now stating in the new documents that there was “coercion leading to a plea agreement between Mr. Miller and the prosecutors that are now the apparent subject of FBI investigation.”
But neither Wayne County Sheriff John Carter nor his investigators who oversaw the criminal investigation have been contacted by the FBI. Nor have at least three key victim witnesses. Nor has a key witness in the criminal trial.
More significant: the prosecutor on the case, Assistant D.A. John Johnson, has also not been contacted by the feds. “I would be surprised if anyone was investigating when the defendant pleaded guilty and was represented by competent attorneys,” he said. Those attorneys were Ed Garland and his colleague Amanda Clark Palmer, the latter of which submitted an affidavit as part of the Film Allman civil motion.
Palmer states that she spoke to an Agent Reynolds from the FBI who told her that another agent (Vanepps) was leading the investigation. Another of Miller’s attorneys (this one in Wayne County, GA, where the crime occurred), Alvin Leapheart, wrote:
Since Mr. Miller’s plea, I have conducted several depositions of the local Assistant District Attorney, the detectives working the case, Rayonier employees as well as one person who while a full time employee of Rayonier, was an assistant county coroner, who was at the scene and investigated the case.
As a result of the evidence that I have uncovered I met with FBI agent Reynolds, told him what I knew about the case, after which we discussed probable civil rights violations as well as other criminal matters. A few days after our meeting I furnished him with a synopsis of the investigation. He informed me that an investigation is underway into the possible wrongful prosecution and incarceration of Mr. Miller.”
Both attorneys had their affidavits notorized May 1, nine days before the Film Allman motion was filed.
Leapheart told Deadline today that he did not represent Miller in the criminal case, “but was involved going over the jury list because I was living in the area at the time and was assisting the defense counsel as far as the jury list was concerned,” he said. “I was not involved in any of the factual matters concerning the case until after he had been sentenced, so it was right after he had been incarcerated, and then I helped in depositions.”
Leapheart said that he did not go to the FBI. “They came by my office.” They or he? Deadline asked. “He,” said the attorney. When asked how he thought the FBI might have gotten involved, he said, “Other than the fact that a private investigator was involved, I don’t know.” That investigator, he said, was from Atlanta. He couldn’t remember his name and said that he couldn’t remember if the P.I. came with the FBI agent into his law office.
A key witness in the criminal trial, location manager Charles Baxter, whose emails and testimony were part of the evidence presented at trial to prove that Miller did not have permission to film on live railroad tracks, has not spoken to the FBI either. According to Baxter’s attorney Kirk Schroder, “Neither my client nor I have been contacted (by the FBI).”
Baxter’s emails and testimony which ended up laying blame on Miller was also mentioned in the new Film Allman motion. There is a hearing set for June 12 to see whether Film Allman will get the judge’s decision for partial summary judgment reversed.
Last month, Film Allman lost its appeal in an effort to wipe away the “willful safety violation” and fine imposed by the Occupational Health and Safety Commission over the production company’s actions. Arguments were heard in the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals which stated that the “willful safety violation” against Film Allman stand and it must pay the $70K statutory maximum fine.