4th filmmaker charged in Allman movie train crash
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A fourth filmmaker has been charged with crimes stemming from a train collision in southeast Georgia that killed a crew member during shooting of a biographical movie about singer Gregg Allman.
Hillary Schwartz, an assistant director on the film “Midnight Rider,” pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing in Wayne County Superior Court. She was indicted earlier in September on the same charges brought in July against director Randall Miller; his wife and business partner, Jody Savin; and the movie’s executive producer, Jay Sedrish.
A court clerk, Betty Taylor, confirmed Schwartz’s plea. She also said Judge Anthony Harrison set a tentative trial date of March 9 for all four defendants.
Production on the movie, based on the life of the Allman Brothers Band singer, had just begun when a freight train plowed into the film crew Feb. 20 on a railroad bridge spanning the Altamaha River in rural Wayne County. The collision killed Sarah Elizabeth Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant from Atlanta, and injured six other crew members.
CSX Transportation, which owns the tracks, said in court filings it twice denied the filmmakers’ requests to film on the train trestle, each time in writing. Sheriff’s investigators have said the crew had permission to be on property surrounding the tracks that is owned by forest products company Rayonier.
Matthew P. Stone, an attorney for Schwartz in civil lawsuits filed since the crash, did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday. It was not known whether he was representing Schwartz in the criminal case.
In a prepared statement July 17, Miller and Savin said the crash and Jones’ death “will haunt us forever” and insisted that “we would never knowingly or intentionally put anybody’s safety at risk.”
Involuntary manslaughter is a felony carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison under Georgia law. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in prison.
Production on “Midnight Rider” was halted after the crash. Allman filed a civil lawsuit against Miller and Savin seeking to prevent them from restarting the project. They settled out of court without disclosing the terms.