Final Allman filmmaker gets probation in Georgia train crash

AP News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2015 2:18 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A third filmmaker was sentenced to 10 years of probation Tuesday for her role in a train collision last year that killed a young camera assistant and injured six other crew members, allowing prosecutors to close their final criminal case in the incident that derailed the Gregg Allman movie "Midnight Rider."

Hillary Schwartz, an assistant director on the film, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing in Wayne County Superior Court. She waived her right for a trial by jury and opted for a judge to decide her case, Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson said.

Two of Schwartz's bosses, director Randall Miller and executive producer Jay Sedrish, pleaded guilty Monday to avoid standing trial.

Filming had just begun on the biographical movie about the Allman Brothers Band singer when a freight train moving 55 mph plowed into the film's crew on a railroad bridge spanning the Altamaha River about 70 miles southwest of Savannah. Prosecutors say 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones of Atlanta died after her head was struck by the train and she fell beneath its wheels. Investigators soon learned that CSX Transportation, which owns the railroad bridge, had denied the filmmakers permission to work on its tracks.

Jones' death galvanized behind-the-scenes film workers to push for improved safety standards while making movies and television shows. And in southeast Georgia, it led to rare case of filmmakers being prosecuted for a death on their sets.

"Our office is very satisfied with the outcome," Johnson said. "More importantly, the Jones family is satisfied with the outcome."

Schwartz's attorney, Todd Brooks, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The harshest penalty went to Miller, the director, who was sentenced to two years in the Wayne County jail and an additional eight years on probation. Sedrish will spend the next 10 years on probation.

Prosecutors agreed to drop charges against Jody Savin, Miller's wife and business partner, as a condition of her husband's plea agreement.

The train collision left the "Midnight Rider" film in limbo. Allman sued Miller in civil court last year to prevent the director from reviving the project. They settled out of court. Terms were not disclosed.