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Plea reached before jury selection
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"Midnight Rider" movie director Randall Miller is led from the court room straight to Wayne County Jail. - photo by Patty Leon

JESUP -- The manslaughter trial for the death of a camera assistant helping shoot a movie about Gregg Allman ended before the jury was even selected Monday in Wayne County Superior Court.

Director Randall Miller and Executive Producer Jay Sedrish each entered separate pleas of guilty in their charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. Sarah Jones died during the shooting of a scene for “Midnight Rider.”

Miller was sentenced to 10 years, two to serve in prison, and the remaining time on probation. He was ordered to spend his jail time in Wayne County. He must also pay a $20,000 fine to the county 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 probationary period. 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 ordered to pay $10,000 in fines.

“Midnight Rider” was going to be a biopic of rock musician Allman. Producers Miller, Savin, Sedrish and Hillary Schwartz were indicted and charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass after Jones was struck by a train and killed Feb. 20, 2014.

During a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 26, Schwartz was severed from the case and was going to be tried separately. There was no word Monday whether she will also accept a plea.

The day of the incident, the director and producers said they were given permission to film on the CSX railroad property — specifically, the Doctortown trestle. Representatives of the railroad have said they had not given permission for the crew to be on the tracks.

The crew, following the directions provided by Miller, set up a metal hospital bed on the track and were filming a scene when a CSX train approached the trestle 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. Seven 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.

Jones’ parents Richard and Elizabeth Jones took the stand to speak on behalf of their daughter and later addressed the media saying they weren’t seeking revenge and were content with the arrangements made by the District Attorney’s office.

Read more in Wednesday’s Coastal Courier.

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