JESUP, Georgia — An assistant director on an ill-fated Gregg Allman biographical movie will stand trial separately from three of her bosses charged in a deadly train crash in southeast Georgia, prosecutors told a judge Thursday.
"Midnight Rider" director Randall Miller, his wife and business partner, Jody Savin, and executive producer Jay Sedrish are scheduled to face trial March 9 on charges of involuntary manslaughter and trespassing. They had just begun shooting the film on Feb. 20, 2014, when a freight train plowed into the crew on a railroad bridge spanning the Altamaha River. Camera assistant Sarah Jones, 27, was killed and six others were injured.
A fourth filmmaker, assistant director Hillary Schwartz, was indicted on the same charges. But prosecutors have agreed to her request to be tried alone, District Attorney Jackie Johnson said.
"She has been severed from the trial of the remaining co-defendants," Johnson told a Superior Court judge during a hearing Thursday. "She may be called as a witness" to testify against the others.
Schwartz's attorney, Austin Catts, was not in court and did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Attorneys for Schwartz filed a pretrial motion Jan. 12 saying she wanted to call her three co-defendants as witnesses but would be unable to if they were all tried together. Criminal defendants have the right to refuse to testify at their own trials.
Her attorneys also argued Schwartz was not a "decision-maker" but rather a member of the crew who had no ownership interest in the film. They said a jury might not make that distinction if Schwartz was tried alongside her bosses.
"Ultimately, Hillary had no ability to control the making of this movie or the decisions that were made," Schwartz's legal motion said.
Wayne County sheriff's investigators have said the filmmakers walked onto the railroad bridge to shoot a scene despite having been denied permission by CSX Transportation, which says it twice stated in writing the crew was not to come onto its tracks.
No date was set for Schwartz's trial. She still has a motion pending asking that charges against her be dismissed.
Involuntary manslaughter is a felony carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in prison.
Production on "Midnight Rider," based on the life of the Allman Brothers Band singer, was halted after the train collision.
All content copyright ©2015 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.