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'Midnight Rider' assistant director guilty of involuntary manslaughter

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Wayne County Sheriff's Office

Hillary Schwartz, the first assistant director on Midnight Rider, the Gregg Allman biopic that was marred by a fatal train accident, was sentenced to 10 years probation and $5,000 fine for criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter in the on-set death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones. In addition, she will not be allowed to work in any film-related capacity where she might be responsible for the safety of others, according to Betty Taylor, Deputy Clerk for Wayne County Superior Court. 

Schwartz had a short bench trial on Monday morning as part of a settlement, in which she was found guilty and sentenced by Superior Court judge Anthony Harrison. Her attorneys did not immediately respond to EW‘s request for comment.

Schwartz was the fourth member of the Midnight Rider production team that were indicted for crimes related to the February 2014 death of Jones, who was killed by CSX freight train on tracks where the film was being made without proper permission. On Monday, director Randall Miller reversed his plea to guilty on what would’ve been the first day of his trail and accepted a sentence that included two years of jail time, eight additional years of probation, community service, and a $20,000 fine. Charges against his wife, producer Jody Savin, were dismissed. Producer Jay Sedrish also admitted guilt and was slapped with 10 years of probation and a $10,000 fine. Like Schwartz, they will not be able to work on film in any official capacity where the safety of others is at stake for the duration of their probation. Schwartz’s attorneys had successfully severed her case from the other three defendants and she would have been called to testify if those related cases had gone to trial. 

Seven crew members were injured and Jones died when filmmakers attempted to shoot a dream sequence on a railroad trestle above the Altamaha River in Wayne County. A prosecution witness testified at this morning’s hearing that CSX had warned the production on the morning of the accident that they could not approve or guarantee the safety of the movie crew at that time and place.

William Hurt was to portray Gregg Allman in the unfinished film, which was suspended following the accident. While the criminal cases are now officially closed, Jones’ family and several of the other injured crew members still have outstanding civil cases against the producers, CSX, and other involved parties. 

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