ABC News Denies Altering Video in Fatal 'Midnight Rider' Train Accident

The train company claims video was "heavily manipulated" and "wholly unauthorized"

ABC News denies manipulating footage of a fatal train accident on the set of the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider to influence viewers opinions.

"We did not alter the content of what took place in the video, which is public record. The bad quality video which we obtained was sharpened to make it clearer. We ran it twice in our report and a third time with graphics and in slow motion to give the viewer a better understanding of what happened," an ABC News spokeswoman told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement.

The train company, CSX Transportation, claims the video was "heavily manipulated" and "wholly unauthorized" in a way that could taint a possible jury pool as the case goes to trial or otherwise affect the legal process.

The segment aired on Oct. 31 and documents the death of assistant camera operator Sarah Jones, who was killed on live train tracks during the filming of a dream sequence. 20/20 interviewed the Jones family and their lawyer — who are suing the film's directors and producers, the train company and the company that owns where the train tracks are located. There is also a criminal case pending against the film's producers and directors.

CSXT filed a motion in the state court of Chatham County, Georgia, on Nov. 12 to quash any further airing of the video, which depicts the train barreling down the track in Jones' final moments on Feb. 20. The filing claims that their proprietary video, which displays their watermark, was "manipulated in multiple ways. ... For example, during the broadcast the video was played in fast forward and in slow motion, the color and lighting of the video had been altered, and graphics had been embedded within the video."

The transportation company says it had only given the video to the Jones family's attorney, Jeffrey R. Harris, as part of the discovery process standard in litigation. It wants further airing of the video stopped, and for Harris to stop speaking with the press.

"CSXT had previously released this video only to plaintiffs, subject to the terms of 1) a limited use license required by the video software provider, and 2) the watermarked restrictions clearly depicted on the video itself. By allowing or facilitating the dissemination and broadcast of an altered version of the video on national television, plaintiffs have demonstrably violated both," the filing said.

CSXT has previously claimed it had denied permission to film on the tracks twice, in writing.

Read more Video Released of Moments Before Sarah Jones' Death on 'Midnight Rider' Set

A spokeswoman for Harris told THR, "the video was public record. There will be no further comment until our side has an opportunity to, first, read CSX's filing and, then, an opportunity to respond through a filing of our own."

CSXT declined THR's request for comment.

ABC's weekly newsmagazine also aired video of director Randall Miller's deposition from the civil suit filed against him by Allman, which was reportedly settled a day after Miller was deposed. Miller repeatedly says "that's not my job," when asked why he didn't know about the immediate danger posed by a train on live tracks.

The footage in dispute starts at the 4:44 mark.

Email: Soo.Youn@THR.com
Twitter: @lalasoo

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