Film director Randall Miller pleaded guilty yesterday in the death of an assistant camera operator on the set of Midnight Rider. Sarah Jones, 27, was killed last year while the Gregg Allman biopic was filming on a train trestle. A train going 55mph struck a metal-frame bed the crew put on the tracks; the flying bed reportedly knocked Jones into the train. Miller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, and the Los Angeles Times calls it "a seminal moment in Hollywood film history"—the first time, as far as showbiz attorneys remember, a filmmaker has pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to an on-set accident. The sentence: up to two years in jail, eight years of probation, a fine of $20,000, 360 hours of community service, and a 10-year ban from serving as a director or assistant director.
Part of his motivation for taking the deal: Doing so got Miller's wife and business partner, Jody Savin, out of her own involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass charges. Miller's lawyers had maintained the director believed he had permission to film on the trestle, though that permission had been obtained from the paper company that owns the land. The company said just two trains would pass that day, and the crew was surprised by a third. But the company that owns the track says it denied the filmmakers permission—twice, CBS News reports. Miller's lawyer maintains that the director believed the set was safe, but says he takes responsibility for Jones' death.