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Producers of Gregg Allman biopic plead not guilty to involuntary manslaughter

Sarah Jones, courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.
Sarah Jones, courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

Jay Sedrish, executive producer of Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider, has entered a plea of not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, stemming from the February incident when camera assistant Sarah Jones died in a train collision on set. Midnight Rider director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin were also charged and entered pleas of not guilty last month.

This marks the latest in a series of public setbacks for the film, which was recently cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for exposing employees to hazards, and may pay a recommended penalty of $74,900. The producers are also facing a wrongful death suit filed by Jones’ parents, along with various suits brought by different crewmembers injured in the same accident. (Allman himself sued the movie for purportedly violating the rights to his life story, but withdrew the lawsuit a couple weeks after filing.)

Representatives from OSHA reprimanded the filmmakers for failing to develop a safety plan or get permission from rail owners before filming on still-active train tracks. “Employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers’ health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle.”

To top it off, the producers are also suing their own insurance company, New York Marine, for failure to pay $1.6 million to cover losses caused by the accident, leading New York Marine to threaten to pull insurance from the film altogether. Considering this, all the attendant litigation, and the continuing tragedy surrounding it, it’s anybody’s guess as to when—or even if—Midnight Rider will ever get made.

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