EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: In this series of video clips beginning above and continuing below, Assistant District Attorney John Johnson lays out the events that led to the death of Sarah Jones on the set of Midnight Rider last year. The first video begins with the film’s director, Randall Miller, telling Judge Anthony Harrison that he was accepting a plea deal that includes two years in county jail, and eight more years of probation.
Before accepting the plea deal and handing down a sentence, though, the judge says he must hear the details of what happened on the set, and led to Miller’s plea. That narrative is laid out in these videos shot for Deadline by Patricia Leon.
In this exclusive video, Johnson explains how Miller, his wife/producer Jody Savin and executive producer/unit production manager Jay Sedrish all knowingly criminally trespassed on the tracks owned by CSX after failing twice to get permission to be on the trestle from the railroad company.
As the lights flickered on and off in the courtroom, Johnson read a timeline of events that led to Jones’ death. He told Judge Anthony Harrison that the state had enough evidence that the jury would likely convict those charged. The defense counsel accepted the event timeline as accurate (though he says in a subsequent video that the defense differs on some details of the narrative). He then entered Miller’s guilty plea.
In the second video, below, Johnson talks about a series of close calls for set members as two other trains hurtled by the set during filming. The narrative includes information provided by the film’s star, Oscar winner William Hurt, who was lying on a hospital bed for the shooting of the crucial scene and had to be protected by set dressers from the nearby trains.
Johnson also lays out what happens as the fatal train rounds the curve a mile away. Warning, this and the third video, also below, talk briefly but plainly about the injuries that killed Jones.
In this third segment, Johnson discusses the train’s impact and the immediate aftermath, when Jones died instantly and several other crew members were injured, and the need to send many to hospitals as far away as Savannah, Ga., for treatment.
Miller was subsequently taken out of court and booked into the adjoining jail, where he immediately began serving his two-year sentence. Before leaving court, Miller turned and looked at Savin, put his hands to his lips, blew her a kiss and waved goodbye, leaving the court escorted by a deputy.