'Midnight Rider' Director Released From Jail Early
The decision sparked immediate outrage among cast and crew who were friends with or knew Sarah Jones.
Midnight Rider director Randall Miller is being released from a Georgia jail on Wednesday after completing just over half of a two-year plea bargain for his role in the death of 27-year-old camera operator Sarah Jones.
A judge found that a pre-existing deal, known as a “two for one,” between Miller’s lawyers and the District Attorney’s office was binding. Miller plead guilty to criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter last year and began serving his sentence that March. His attorneys tried to have Miller released over the holidays last December and once more earlier this month. Both attempts failed.
"He is in the process of being released," says John B. Johnson, the special assistant district attorney for Wayne County, Georgia, who worked with Miller's attorneys on the deal, "He still has to go through the process of registering with probation in Georgia. And he still has to get California probation to accept the transfer."
Johnson said that when Miller made his original plea last year, it had included a provision that any time beyond a year could be peeled away by doing work while inside. But when, during the course of Miller's incarceration, Johnson and Miller's attorneys examined the case law, they found that their original agreement had been "unlawful."
"We had to amend the original sentence which made him eligible today to get out," Johnson tells The Hollywood Reporter, "We now have a valid sentence."
The ruling lasted about 30 minutes. In addition to Miller and his wife Jody Savin, Richard and Elizabeth Jones were present in the courtroom. Richard Jones gave a statement to the court, in which he expressed his displeasure at the ruling, calling it too short, Johnson said.
"He said, the whole point was not to be vindictive, but to send a message to the industry that if you’re in a leadership position, if you come to Georgia and endanger your crew members, you're going to be held to account," Johnson recalled, "And all that got accomplished. He did not feel that this sentence was long enough. He’s got that right to express that."
"The whole point was to make Randall Miller responsible for what he did, which cost someone their life and to send that message to the industry," Johnson added.
The latest deal stipulates that Miller will remain on probation for 9 years of his original 10-year sentence, and will be prohibited from “serving as director, first assistant director or supervisor with responsibility for safety in any film production.”
Two other supervisors on the set of Midnight Rider also plead guilty to felony criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter charges along with Miller — the film’s first assistant director, Hillary Schwartz, and Jay Sedrish, a unit production manager. Miller was the only one of the three to serve time behind bars.
The decision sparked immediate outrage and condemnation among the vast network of cast and crew who were friends with or knew Jones and who have coalesced around her memory to help bring awareness to the issue of safety on set.
"It’s a complete miscarriage of justice and merely a slap on the wrist," says Brooke Bunson, who worked with Jones on the set of Army Wives, and now does publicity for ABC's Secrets and Lies, "While nothing will ever bring Sarah back, in moments like these you really have to wonder about accountability and one year in jail is hardly accountability."
“I am outraged,” says Harry Bring, who worked with Jones on the set of Army Wives, and currently serves as the co-executive producer for the fifth season of Criminal Minds. Bring and others met with Jones’ parents, Richard and Elizabeth, last month when the couple was visiting Los Angeles to help promote safety on sets, part of a global movement that began in the wake of their daughter’s death.