‘Midnight Rider’ Investigation: Sheriff Will Leave Question of Criminal Charges to D.A.

Midnight Rider Doctortown Trestle Sarah Jones
Mike McCall for Variety

Wayne County Sheriff John Carter said that his office will not pursue their own criminal charges stemming from the Feb. 21 train trestle accident on the set of “Midnight Rider,” but will instead present the case to the district attorney to determine if any such action should be taken.

Carter said on Monday that their investigation was complete, and that they will lay out the case to the district attorney in Georgia’s Brunswick Judicial Circuit in a meeting scheduled for April 21.

Among the questions is whether any type of criminal charges will be filed, such as trespassing or negligence.

Sarah Jones, second camera assistant, was killed and seven others were injured when a train unexpectedly came down the tracks as the crew was at the bridge trestle during shooting of a dream sequence in the Gregg Allman biopic. The sequence, being shot in a rural area near Jesup, Ga., involved putting a hospital bed on the tracks.

Carter said that one of the reasons that they are not pursuing their own criminal charges is the unusual nature of the incident, including “conflicting stories” of whether the production had permission to be on the tracks. The investigation also has queried crew members on who ordered the crew to be on the tracks. Carter said that although they do pursue criminal charges in other cases, they do not in cases where there are lingering questions of “who said what or did what.”

“We’re the finder of facts,” he said.

CSX, the owner of the railroad, has told investigators that producers of the indie film were denied permission to work on the tracks.

Mark Spaulding, a spokesman for the district attorney, said that law enforcement agencies at times will forgo pursuing criminal charges on their own when they are unsure if an incident “rises to the level of criminality.”

Rayonier, the paper company that owns the land surrounding the tracks at the accident site, has confirmed it gave the production permission to be on the land. However Rayonier does not own the tracks or have authority to grant access to them. According to the sheriff’s incident report, after the accident a CSX employee asked producer Jay Sedrish if he had permission to be on the trestle or tracks and Sedrish replied, “That’s complicated.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board also are conducting investigations into the incident, as are attorneys representing Jones’ family with the possibility of filing a civil complaint. Last week, her parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, told the Associated Press that their daughter’s death was “senseless.”

 

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  1. Christopher G. Markunas says:

    Sheriff Carter, you are a joke and a travesty and an embarrassment to Law Enforcement.

  2. Shaun O says:

    This is absurd. “the finders of the facts”? Please. Evidence! Paperwork! Denied permit requests… These are the things you build a case on. Did they have permission to be on the property? Yes. Did they have permission to be on the tracks? No.

    If they did not have permission to be on the tracks, who made the decision to allow them to do so?

    Witness testimony is always skewed. Memory is tricky – particularly related to trauma… so you go off of documents and the fact that they were on active tracks without permission. That’s it!

    Who are the members of the crew responsible for the schedule, and for the safety of cast and crew from day to day (on set)? Producers, Director, AD’s, Locations, Site Rep., (and by default) Grip.

    If the Georgia DA doesn’t file, it’ll be a travesty. And shame on the Sheriff’s Department. It would appear they’re just as inept or corrupt as they are in Los Angeles.

  3. ronnie says:

    I’m really hoping the DA files criminal charges and holds the producers and production company responsible with more than tresspassing but with neglible homicide. If they don’t, it will be harder for the civil suits in the long run and that production company needs to be financial bankrupted so they never work in the industry again.

  4. Robinson says:

    follow the money, somebody got paid off. I thought the GA state police were better than that!

  5. anon says:

    He said she said. never works with regular people. they will find someone to charge,,,why are the Hollywood people getting away with this, the papper trail has to be there… its the law. I would not stand for this if I was that Girls parents, I would demand something done

  6. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    The Georgia Laws are actually getting in the way of common sense. This is clearly criminal negligence. Hopefully the DA will know how to breakdown this case. At this point, we in the biz all know they were cheating the shot and did not have permission to be shooting on the railroad tracks. Any Criminal intent will be thrown out because it was not the intention of the Producers or Director to get anyone harmed. Sarah needs justice to prevail and the Industry needs to keep a watchful eye on this case. JEV

  7. Kak says:

    Looks like someone got paid off.

    • Rocky Robillard says:

      Yes, I estimate between ten and twenty thousand dollars were pushed under a newspaper towards the local Sheriff as he was visiting the local bar after hours.

  8. Spike says:

    too complicated a case for a hick sheriff, I guess. jay sedrish needs to have his huevos in a vice and get past the b.s. “it’s complicated.” he did or he didn’t have permission to be on the tracks. if he didn’t, he goes to jail along with the location manager and the A.D.. throw ’em all in the slammer. let hollywood wake up to the fact that if they do the crime, they do the time.

    • MM says:

      So true Spike….As a parent of two sons if an accident happened I would hope that the “Jay Sedrish” producer “character” would cut the junk and fess up and tell the truth-and show respect to the person who was killed–saying “it’s complicated” makes him and everyone involved “CRIMINALS”sorry to say this but many locals of departments outside of Hollywood who have no safety training and technical training don’t even have a clear understanding of tasks and responsibilities that accompany a job title. In addition, the local hires refuse training from anyone who has a technical foundation with common sense safety knowledge. These ‘egos’ put peoples’ lives in danger. Negligence x’s anyone who did not speak up.

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