3:09pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'Midnight Rider' Director's Incarceration Being Probed by FBI
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is actively investigating whether Randall Miller, director of the ill-fated Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider, was wrongfully prosecuted and incarcerated for his alleged role in the death of 27-year-old camera operator Sarah Jones. That's according to new court documents filed by Film Allman, still battling its insurance company for millions of dollars over a production that was suspended when the film crew set up on a railway trestle bridge train in Georgia only to flee upon the arrival of a train barreling forward at an estimated 57 miles per hour.
After the fatal accident on Feb. 20, 2014, prosecutors in Georgia charged Miller, who then took a plea deal for criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter. He was supposed to serve two years in prison, but only served about half that time thanks to problems later found with the plea agreement. He was released in March 2016, and at the time, those close to Jones expressed outrage.
But since then, Miller has been quietly fighting to alter perception of what happened.
Film Allman has been in litigation with New York Marine and General Insurance Company, which it accuses of sabotaging the film. Worse, the production company claims that the insurer had conflicts and had a plan to drive Miller into bankruptcy in order to avoid big payouts. Miller and producer Jody Savin also came forward with evidence they suggested might demonstrate that the train rail company never officially withheld permission to use its tracks.
Despite this, a federal judge ruled in December that criminal acts had been properly excluded under the film company's insurance policy.
Now, the production company is requesting reconsideration from the judge. As part of its attempt to change the judge's mind, attorneys for Film Allman have submitted sworn affidavits that they've been contacted by the FBI in connection with an ongoing investigation into the accident and its aftermath.
According to court papers, the topics of interest for the FBI include "probable civil rights violations" and "the possible wrongful prosecution and incarceration of Mr. Miller."
The development "is the latest and possibly most compelling reason that this Court should reconsider whether the 'criminal acts' exclusion applies in this case," they write, adding arguments pertaining to whether crewmembers really enjoyed the status of employees for purposes of deciding liability.
The producers' goal is to force a trial. The court papers assert that "the tangled web presented by New York Marine regarding who-knew-what when employee crew members set up their scripted shot on the Doctortown trestle, calls for a complete hearing of the evidence by a trier of fact."