×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Raise Doubts About Trespass Charges With New Evidence

Midnight Rider” director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin’s Film Allman are pointing to a newly discovered email to show that they were not expressly denied permission to shoot on a CSX trestle on Feb. 20, 2014, when a train plowed through their shooting location and killed a camera assistant, Sarah Jones, and injured eight others.

The email was included in Film Allman’s motion to amend its complaint in its lawsuit against insurer New York Marine, which denied its claim for the losses after the movie shut down. The insurer based its denial by citing a clause that it would not pay for losses caused by criminal acts.

In the aftermath, Miller was sentenced to two years in Wayne County Jail in Jesup, Ga., after he reached a plea agreement for charges of criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter. He was released in March after serving one year.

In a filing with U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday, Miller and Savin’s production company are pointing to an email from a CSX Corp. executive to raise doubts about the claim that the railroad explicitly denied them permission to be on the train tracks and trestle.

The email is from CSX’s Carla Groleau at 10:48 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 20, and it simply says, “Groleau, Carla would like to recall the message, ‘CSX.'” It was sent to Charley Baxter, the location manager on “Midnight Rider,” and Tina Kicklighter, a representative of Rayonier Performance Fibers, which owns the land around the tracks and did give the production permission to shoot on its property.

The message that was recalled was cited by prosecutors as proof that the producers of “Midnight Rider” were denied permission to be on the tracks. The email, sent at 10:47 a.m., stated that CSX was “not able to support your request.” According to the latest filing from Film Allman, the “recall” email was produced by Rayonier during the discovery process of separate litigation that was brought by Jones’ family. That case was settled.

Film Allman is citing other evidence in their case against the insurer. They contend that the attorney that New York Marine hired to represent them in the Jones’ litigation, Matthew Stone, had a conflict because he had represented CSX “at least dozens of times.”

According to the filmmakers’ latest filing, Stone “failed to advise” them that he had the “recall” email, and only produced it in response to a subpoena during the discovery process of the insurance case. They also claim that Stone produced video from the train during the accident, even though he had testified that he has never received video with the locomotive recorder data.

What’s unclear is whether Baxter, the location manager, forwarded the “recall” email to Miller, Savin or other members of the crew. He did forward Groleau’s original email to Miller, Savin, executive producer Jay Sedrish, first assistant director Hillary Schwartz and others, according to a Occupational Safety and Health Commission opinion. Baxter said that he discussed the e-mail with Schwartz, Sedrish and production designer Missy Stewart, and that after they looked at it “we were like, ‘Oh, well, there you go.'”

Film Allman points also to a deposition of John Johnson, the Wayne County prosecutor who indicted Miller and Savin, in which he said that CSX and Rayonier “had an agreement” to allow Rayonier to conduct certain operations on the tracks. Film Allman contends that the “existence of such agreement would have been useful in both the civil and criminal defenses defeating the trespassing allegations.”

“New York Marine knew or should have known that Rayonier knew that CSX had not expressly denied permission to shoot on its tracks, but failed to advise Miller, Savin or Film Allman of this fact, even though they asked for it,” Film Allman said in its filing.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7 in New York Marine’s motion for partial summary judgment.

More Biz

  • https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/kindred_spirits_2019_v7.jpg

    Kindred Spirits Host Fundraiser for Child Refugees

    The Kids Entertainment Professionals for Young Refugees will host its third annual Kindred Spirits fundraising campaign this month on behalf of UNICEF and in coordination with World Refugee Day, which is Thursday. The grassroots, volunteer organization’s online fundraiser will take place from June 14-27, and 100% of every donation made will benefit UNICEF. “We call [...]

  • Vid Angel

    VidAngel Hit with $62.4 Million Judgment for Pirating Movies

    A jury on Monday ordered VidAngel to pay $62.4 million to Disney, Fox, and Warner Bros. for streaming hundreds of movies on its service without permission. The verdict is potentially a death blow to the Utah-based company, which sought to allow family audiences to watch Hollywood fare while skipping past violence, sex, and other objectionable [...]

  • Nicholas Sparks

    Nicholas Sparks Apologizes, Explains Opposition to LGBT Club

    Romance writer Nicholas Sparks issued an apology on Monday for remarks he made in 2013 opposing the formation of an LGBT club at his Christian school. In an email published last week by the Daily Beast, Sparks faulted Saul Benjamin, who was then the headmaster of the Epiphany School of Global Studies, for pushing an [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8 Production

    'Game of Thrones,' Netflix VFX Among Those to Be Featured in SIGGRAPH Production Talks

    VFX pros behind the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the blockbuster film “Avengers: Endgame,” Pixar’s upcoming “Toy Story 4,” last year’s Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Netflix series, including “Stranger Things,” and more will give SIGGRAPH 2019 attendees a behind-the-scenes look at their work during the conference’s Production Sessions. There will even be a [...]

  • welcome home Apple Ad

    Cannes Lions Takes Place in Time of Change for Ad World

    The ad industry gathers June 17-21 for its annual celebration of commercials, marketing and creativity, the Cannes Lions in the French Riviera. It does so against a backdrop of ongoing and profound upheaval within the world of advertising. The share prices of all the major ad groups, such as WPP, Publicis and Omnicom, are down [...]

  • R&B Singer Ann Marie Signs With

    R&B Singer Ann Marie Signs With Interscope Records (EXCLUSIVE)

    Chicago-based R&B singer-songwriter Ann Marie, known for her hit “Secret” with YK Osiris, has signed with Interscope Records, the company announced exclusively to Variety today. “Ann Marie is the prototype for today’s artist,” says Nicole Wyskoarko, the label’s EVP of urban operations. “She’s developed and cultivated a dedicated fan base using the tools of today [...]

  • Gay Chorus Deep South

    Branded Content Campaigns Help Ads Cut Through Clutter

    The business of advertising has changed from the days when an expensive 30-second spot was the be-all and end-all of a campaign, leading many commercials production companies and their directors to diversify. In an era of content overload, when it’s easier than ever for consumers to skip an ad or avoid it altogether, many advertisers [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content