Director Jailed in Assistant's Death Gets Sprung Early

Randall Miller out on legal misstep after plea deal for death on 'Midnight Rider' set
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2016 8:21 AM CDT
Film director Randall Miller, center, sits in a Georgia courtroom with his wife, Jody Savin, before pleading guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing on March 9, 2015.   (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)
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(Newser) – In what Deadline calls a "shock ruling," Midnight Rider director Randall Miller was set free Wednesday from a Georgia jail after serving only half of his plea-deal term for his role in the death of a 27-year-old camera assistant, the AP reports. The early release was due to prosecutors recently discovering that state law doesn't permit an inmate to serve more than one year at a state jail (as opposed to a prison), leading a judge to modify Miller's sentence from two years to one, Variety reports. The judge also took into account the fact that Miller's lawyers—who the Hollywood Reporter says tried to get him out twice before—and the DA's office had struck a "two-for-one" agreement of possible early release for good behavior before Miller entered his plea last year. Miller, who had pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Sarah Jones, will continue his 10-year probation, which includes a mandate saying he can't direct a film or otherwise have any supervisory role overseeing safety in a film production.

On Feb. 20, 2014, Jones was working on the set of the Gregg Allman biopic, filming a scene on train tracks in Wayne County, Ga., when she was struck by a train and killed, per the Reporter; eight others were injured, Variety notes. The movie production company had reportedly been denied access to the tracks and shot there anyway, leading to Miller becoming the first known filmmaker to be convicted and jailed for an on-set death. Jones' parents tell Variety they initially agreed to the plea deal placing Miller in jail instead of prison due to his health and say they never would have agreed to it if they had known he'd be released after one year. "We don't mean to inflict more pain to Mr. Miller's family," Jones' father, Richard Jones, said in court Wednesday. "It's about making the film industry a better, safer place." Others expressed their outrage more forcefully. "It's a complete miscarriage of justice and merely a slap on the wrist," one of Jones' former colleagues tells the Reporter. "One year in jail is hardly accountability." (Read more film director stories.)

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