EXCLUSIVE: Midnight Rider filmmaker Randall Miller today was denied early release by a judge in Wayne County, GA, putting to rest the notion he will get out of jail before March. Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison’s ruling said that the intent was for Miller to stay in jail for the full two years, and that it’s up to his jailers whether he might get time served for good behavior. Miller is the first filmmaker in Hollywood history to go to jail for an on-set death.
Whether Miller remains jailed for the full two years is up to Sheriff John Carter, who oversees the Wayne County Detention Center where Miller is incarcerated. Miller pleaded guilty in March 2015 to felony involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing in the February 2014 on-set death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones. Several other crew members were injured. Whether he will get a 2-for-1 good behavior deal is unknown. If he does, he will be out by March 16.
Carter told Deadline today he has yet to make his decision, and it won’t come until he examines everything. In the past at that jail, the 2-for-1 was used for inmates who were convicted on misdemeanors. Miller is a special case as he is serving for a much more serious crime.
Miller negotiated a plea agreement with the District Attorney for two years in jail and eight years probation on March 9, 2015. Referring to that sentence, Harrison said in his ruling today that “After considering multiple victim impact statements, the Court accepted — albeit with express reluctance — the negotiated agreement and sentenced Miller in accordance therewith.” Miller was taken out of the court that day in handcuffs to begin his sentence.
Months later, shortly after Thanksgiving, Miller’s attorneys filed a motion to ask for the early release of their client based on a number of things, including health issues. Included in that motion, Miller’s attorneys wrote that at the time of the original plea agreement, Carter agreed to a 2-for-1 deal outside the court in the hallway. However, the longtime law enforcement officer told Deadline that was “flat-out not true.” In a footnote today, the judge addressed that, saying, “not only was this not part of Miller’s sentence as pronounced by the Court, but even if Carter had made such a commitment, it would not be binding on the Court.”
The Court continued: “In his motion, Miller seeks to persuade the Court that his sentence should be modified so as to release him instanter, less than one year into the service thereof, for time served.” In support of his motion, Miller argued he would be entitled to earned-time allowance based on good behavior, that he paid his $25,000 fine in full, and that his health was declining.
The Court said while it has jurisdiction to modify Miller’s sentence, “it unequivocally declines to do so. When this Court accepted the parties’ negotiated plea agreement, one of its primary considerations was the victim’s family’s wishes. While they, too, expressed reluctance with the negotiated plea agreement, they ultimately asked the Court to accept it. When the Court sentenced Miller to serve two years of his ten-year sentence in custody, 730 days in confinement is exactly what was intended. Whether Miller’s custodian thereafter shortens that period of time is outside the purview of the Court. Miller’s Motion to Modify Sentence is hereby DENIED.”
In a footnote, Harrison said that the Change.org petition signed by those in the industry and friends and family of Sarah Jones objecting to Miller’s early release did not affect his decision either way. There was no mention made of the petition Miller’s sister began that asked for her brother’s early release.