By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Jailed 'Midnight Rider' film director seeks early release
Randall Miller, director of the Gregg Allman biopic, "Midnight Rider," is led out of a Wayne County courtroom after pleading guilty in March to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in the death of second camera assistant Sarah Jones during filming. - photo by Courier file photo

Imprisoned film director Randall Miller is seeking early release from the Wayne County Jail, citing medical issues.

Miller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass March 9 in the death of second camera assistant Sarah Jones during the filming of the Greg Allman biopic, “Midnight Rider.”

The death occurred Feb. 20, 2014, when Jones was struck by a train while the crew attempted to shoot a scene on the Doctortown train trestle in Jesup. The crew was under the impression it had permission to be there, but Miller failed to follow safety procedures and trespassed, the prosecution contended.

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.

Motions seeking early release were filed by Miller’s attorney Ed Garland on Nov. 25 with an addendum filed Dec. 22 in Wayne County Superior Court.

According to the motions filed, Garland said Miller has been a model prisoner, paid all the required fines and has recently shown a drastic decline in health.

In a letter written by Cathy Weiss Green, M.D., and filed within the motion submitted Dec. 22, along with various medical reports, Green wrote that Miller, 53, gained 35 pounds during the past three months. He also showed signs of bilateral swelling of his lower legs and ankles, fluttering of his heart every couple of days for approximately 30 minutes, and a chronic cough.

The letter continues by stating that Miller has a history of elevated blood pressure, had risk factors for heart disease, chronic lower-back pain and had surgery to remove herniated discs.

Green recommended that Miller be placed back into the care of his primary-care physician, Dr. Stuart Miller, no relation, who has an eight-year history of treating Randall Miller. Green also recommended that the imprisoned director be seen by cardiologist Dr. Paul Maher of Southern California Heart Specialists, who has evaluated Miller twice since 2012.

Based on that recommendation and the behavior Miller has exhibited in prison, Garland filed the motion seeking immediate release.

“If the court denies Randall’s motion to release him immediately, then Randall Miller respectfully requests the court to enter an order allowing Randall to see a qualified board-certified cardiologist in South Georgia at Mr. Miller’s own cost, for the recommended testing and evaluation,” Garland wrote in the motion.

The Wayne County District Attorney’s Office quickly filed a request to have the early release motion denied, saying that Miller entered into the plea under oath, knowing the state had sufficient evidence to establish the essential elements of the crime to a jury trial.

As part of the agreement, all charges against Miller’s wife and co-producer, Jody Savin, were dropped.

“After having received the benefit of a negotiated sentence in a criminal case in which he faced up to ten years in prison, Miller now seeks to proverbially, ‘have his cake and eat it too,’” Wayne County Assistant District Attorney John Johnson wrote in his motion. “To make matters worse, he files his motion just prior to the Christmas holiday, a particularly sensitive time of the year for the family who suffered the tragic loss of Sarah Jones as a result of his conduct.”

Included in the state’s motion was a letter written by Sarah Jones’ father, Richard, strongly opposing Miller’s early release.

“I truly seek healing for all involved,” Jones wrote. “There is, however, a need for accountability. It is after all, apparent that Mr. Miller and his co-defendants displayed gross negligence and a reckless disregard for the safety of their cast and crew. Thus the guilty pleas for involuntary manslaughter. Mr. Miller entered into the agreement for eight years’ probation and to serve two years in jail
(10 years total).”

The letter also included an excerpt, written with permission, by Izabeau Giannakopoulos, one of the other film-crew members who was seriously injured at the train crash. The letter says Miller should not be exempt or relieved of paying his penalty.

Executive producer Jay Sedrish entered a separate guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass and was sentenced to serve 10 years of probation and pay a $10,000 fine.

Sign up for our e-newsletters