JESUP — The manslaughter trial for the death of a camera assistant helping shoot a movie about Gregg Allman ended before the jury even was selected Monday in Wayne County Superior Court.
And on Tuesday, the final defendant was found guilty.
Director Randall Miller and Executive Producer Jay Sedrish each entered separate pleas of guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass during Monday’s session.
Sarah Jones died during the shooting of a scene for “Midnight Rider.”
Miller was sentenced to 10 years — two in prison and the remaining time on probation. He was ordered to spend his jail time in Wayne County, pay a $20,000 fine and serve 360 hours of community service. As a condition of his probation he is barred from working in the film industry as a director, assistant director or in any supervisory capacity during his probation. He will be allowed to transfer his probation to California. As part of his plea agreement, all charges against his wife and co-producer, Jody Savin, were dropped.
Sedrish will serve 10 years of probation and was fined $10,000.
“Midnight Rider” was going to be a biopic of Allman. Producers Miller, Savin, Sedrish and Hillary Schwartz were indicted and charged after Jones was struck by a train and killed Feb. 20, 2014.
During a pre-trial hearing Feb. 26, Schwartz was severed from the case.
Tuesday morning, Sch-wartz, the first assistant director, again pled not guilty. Wayne County Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison held a bench trial, listening to evidence presented by Brunswick Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney John Johnson and Wayne County detective Joe Gardner.
The prosecution contended that Schwartz knew the crew did not have permission to be on the railroad track and showed a video of the crew, include actor William Hurt, trying to clear the tracks as the train approached.
The state entered copies of different emails between CSX Railroad and the defendants into evidence. The emails indicated the defendants knew they did not have permission to be on the tracks, but still planned to do the shots.
Harrison found Schwartz guilty of criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter and sentenced her to 10 years probation. She also is barred from being a director or assistant director, but can work in the industry other than overseeing the safety of others. She was fined $5,000.
The day of the incident, the crew had no idea the producers and directors had been denied permission to be on the tracks, specifically the Doctortown trestle.
The crew, led by Miller, set up a metal hospital bed on the trestle and were filming when a CSX train approached at 58 mph, according to incident reports released by the National Transportation Safety Board and the GBI.
Several actors and crew members, including Jones, had to scramble to escape the train, which hit the metal bed. Shrapnel from the collision hit Jones, knocking her into the train’s path. Another crew member was seriously injured and airlifted to a Savannah hospital. Six other members of the crew were injured by shrapnel.
Miller’s attorney, Ed Garland, said they entered into the plea thinking the state and Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson had sufficient evidence to lead to a guilty verdict by a jury.
Johnson said out of everyone involved, Schwartz was the most cooperative and was instrumental in helping the state gather evidence.
Jones’ parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, attended court both days. On Monday, they testified on behalf of their daughter and later addressed the media, saying they weren’t seeking revenge and were content with the plea deals.
“I certainly hesitate to use the word ‘happy,’” Richard Jones said when asked how he felt about the agreements. “There is no happiness here at all, but to answer your question, we are content with the terms of the agreement. We think that does accomplish what needs to be accomplished, in that this has sent a very strong message.”
Miller is the first filmmaker to go to prison for a film related death, according to various news reports.
After Schwartz was sentenced Tuesday, the DA and ADA spoke to the media.
“We are pleased with the resolutions,” Jackie Johnson said. “I think the family understands what we did and why we did it.”