Attorney for ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers: ‘They Are Innocent of Any Criminal Conduct’

Midnight Rider Death
Courtesy of WSAV3 and Jerry Hogan

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.

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  1. Crew Member says:

    Well known for their media spin talents, these are the attorney’s Randall Miller and Jody Savin hired to defend them against the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Sarah Jones.

    Ed Garland and Don Samuel are partners at Garland, Samuel & Loeb in Atlanta.

    From Super Lawyers:

    “… (Ed) Garland is also a master storyteller. When it matters—when someone’s life is at stake—he turns up the drama. You feel yourself leaning forward to hear what he has to say.

    Consider his press conference in the Ray Lewis case. In 2000, Lewis, in Atlanta attending a Super Bowl party, was on the scene when two men were stabbed to death in a fight. The case drew enormous media attention, and Garland immediately seized the opportunity. He started the press conference sounding like an old-time Southern preacher, referencing the man wrongly accused in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing. “I can hear the whistle blowing on the prosecution train,” he said. “And the first person on it is Richard Jewell. And the second seat they are reserving for Ray Lewis.”

    “That was a lot of fun,” says Garland, chuckling. “We kept up a relentless counterattack. We were on the edge of what is proper. But sometimes a lawyer has to be willing to walk up to the edge to fight for his client.” The prosecution ultimately dismissed murder charges during the trial, and Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

    Like his father, Garland is a fierce advocate for his clients, whatever the accusation. “My attitude is, we don’t pick cases,” he says. “People come in here like they come to a doctor. They come, they have a problem, we try to help them. Just like a doctor wouldn’t say, ‘I don’t want to treat this patient because their disease is bad’ … my job is to make [the prosecution] prove the case.”

  2. Attorney for ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers: ‘They Are Innocent’ | Variety

  3. I actually know Ed Garland. He is a sharp guy. Of course his statements quoted here are BS, but that is what he is paid to do.

  4. Donna says:

    She was hit by a flying piece of the bed, “shrapnel”, which hit her into the path of the train.

  5. fairportfan says:

    He said all that with a straight face? He oughta be in movies; he’s a better deadpan comic than Buster Keaton.

  6. AngryWhoDat says:

    Lets see how fast “Innocent of any criminal conduct” turns into a guilty plea so they can avoid the max sentence of 10 years. It took the DA 4+ months to bring these charges. Hardly a hasty jump to conclusions. Their goose is cooked. Its soap on a rope for you Randy.

  7. Tom Jensen says:

    Rob must be either the Samuel or the Loeb. We know he’s not the Garland.

  8. Rob says:

    Trespassing would be climbing the eight foot railroad fence—bagging the railroad security cameras, hiding from the railroad lookout towers, and outrunning the two railroad cops in the state. There has to be deterrants not some sheriff going yap-yap-yap when the railroads pull his strings.

    MURDER would be killing 130 people a year and doing nothing to prevent the killings like CSX while paying the railroad brass MILLIONS

  9. Michael O'Donnell says:

    The River was 60 feet below the tressle and the water was only 2 feet deep.

  10. Ronnie says:

    The railroad company corresponded their objection to the filming on tracks via e-mail to the production company, not to mention that they would not have let anyone on the tracks without several reps because it is a huge liability for them. They know they were wrong and their own comments at public events about cutting corners is already public record.

  11. meg conway says:

    Since the death of Sarah Jones I’ve been posting about inherent safety problems in North Carolina which essentially eliminates liability for corporations-even when they create a hazard that causes an injury, permanent disability, and inability to work.

    Please read about Biltmore Farms and Hartford Insurance and how they took advantage of an archaic discriminatory common law that makes North Carolina a state to know about before you even drive through it-at this link here.

    The hazard was one safety issue, what they did afterwards truly defined them as corporations without conscience; they did it because they could.

    Meg Conway, Asheville NC

  12. talonstrike says:

    F.U.D. The lies in this lawyers statements are myriad and intended to cloud his clients culpability. I think the facts will prove that the Millers and Sedrish knew exactly what they were doing that day. Justice For Sarah!!

  13. mlabert says:

    They didn’t know they didn’t have permission? I thought they were “seasoned veterans”- they knew that they had to have a permit and knew that they were not granted one. Any jury will see thru that BS.

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