Ed Garland, whose Atlanta firm Garland, Samuel & Loeb is representing “Midnight Rider” director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin, said that his clients were “innocent of any criminal conduct” and said that they did not believe that they did not have permission to shoot on the CSX train trestle where the Feb. 22 accident occurred.
Garland and his partners took over the defense for Miller and Savin last week, after the two and another producer, Jay Sedrish, were indicted on involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass charges. Miller and Savin each pled not guilty after surrendering to authorities on Sunday. They were released on cash bonds of $27,700 each, according to Wayne County Sheriff John Carter.
“They are completely innocent of any criminal conduct,” Garland said. “This is a great tragedy, but it was a circumstance that does not give rise to criminal liability as I see the facts.
“From my review, this should never have been indicted, and I expect that they will be exonerated,” he added.
John Ossick, attorney for Sedrish, declined to say when his client would be booked, but that he would go through such processing “soon.” Carter, the Wayne County sheriff, said that he has been told that Sedrish’s booking will take place by Thursday.
Sarah Jones, second camera assistant, was killed and six others were injured on the set of the movie in Jesup, Ga. while the production was shooting on a CSX train trestle. According to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, the railroad told one of its officers that the production did not have permission to be on the tracks.
But Garland said that they would present “multiple ways the facts show they are innocent of any criminal conduct.”
“The factual basis will be that the elements of the criminal charges are not true,” he said. “They were not engaged in criminal trespass and the death was not brought about by an act of criminal trespass. The events were an unfortunate accident, and they were never intended and known to be part of an improper act.”
He added, “In their role they had no knowledge that there was any issue about their ability to be on the railroad tracks to shoot the scene.”
He said that as the train approached, Miller had attempted to remove a bed that was set up on the tracks as part of the scene, and “came within inches of his own life in trying to make sure that the bed got off the tracks,” and was even pinned under it before he was pulled out. But the crew was unable to remove the bed in time, according to eyewitness accounts.
“When the train came problems developed that were unforeseen in removing the bed from the tracks,” Garland said. “There was ample time for everyone to get out of the way, but circumstances resulted in Ms. Jones being struck by something. We are not exactly sure what object struck her as a result of the bed falling apart.”
Garland said that they are conducting their own investigation.
Miller and Savin “did not believe they didn’t have permission to be on the tracks. They were not acting deliberately in defiance of the railroad’s rights.”
He declined to go into substantial detail about they evidence that they are gathering, but said, “There are a lot of facts that go into how these events occurred. They are not simple, and they involve a lot of people and a lot of different activities. There are various witnesses, documents, photographs, videos and pieces of evidence.”
“There are a lot of facts that show what [his clients'] state of mind was, that go to what they believed,” Garland said. “They didn’t intentionally violate any duty that they knew of that they were not to be on the tracks.” He said that his clients would not be commenting on the case, but that they have been grieving over the accident. “They have been deeply saddened and remain deeply saddened by the events that occurred,” he said.