ABC Denies Manipulating ‘Midnight Rider’ Train Footage for ’20/20’

“We did not alter the content of what took place in the video,” ABC News says

Last Updated: November 13, 2014 @ 3:45 PM

If footage from the fatal train accident on the set of the Gregg Allman biopic “Midnight Rider” that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones was indeed manipulated, as new court papers claim, ABC News wants it known: They didn’t do it.

ABC has issued a statement denying that it altered the footage, which aired on “20/20” two weeks ago, after railroad operator CSX Transportation claimed that the video had been manipulated in a motion filed in Georgia on Wednesday.

While a statement from ABC News acknowledges that the “bad quality” video was sharpened, and aired in slow motion with graphics in one instance, the news organization denied altering the content.

“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,” the statement reads. “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.”

CSX — which is named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jones’ parents — says that the footage was altered in a number of ways.

“While CSXT cannot be certain of how the video was manipulated, or by whom, it appears … that the recorded version was then manipulated in multiple ways,” the company’s filing reads. “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 CSX proprietary watermark is plainly visible during the segment.”

Lawyers for the Jones family also come under fire in the filing. CSX claims that the attorneys obtained the footage through discovery in the lawsuit and violated the terms of the company’s licensing agreement, citing a watermark on the footage that prohibits any “unauthorized copying, distribution, manipulation or other use.”

The footage that aired on “20/20” depicted the moments before the Feb. 20 accident. In it, crewmembers are seen trying to clear the tracks as the train bore down on them. During the broadcast, the footage was slowed down to show a hospital bed that was on the tracks and became “a deadly weapon,” as ABC News’ Chris Connelly put it.

The mattress of the bed struck Jones, knocking her into the train.

In addition to Jones’ death, six other people were injured.

CSX is asking the court to prohibit further public dissemination of video and photographic evidence.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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