EXCLUSIVE: Randall Miller, the director of the ill-fated Midnight Rider movie who has been fighting for months to get out of jail early, will have to stay put, according to the sheriff in charge of the Wayne County, GA jail where Miller is serving time. Miller and his attorneys believe he is eligible for a two-for-one deal that would have allowed him out of prison after a year (which is tomorrow, March 9).
“He’s not getting out tomorrow, and until I can see a statute that allows a two-for-one on a felony case, I’m not sure I have the authority to let him out,” Sheriff John Carter told Deadline this morning. “Until I’m court-ordered to do it, he will remain here until I can get clarification on whether I do have the authority or not, and even at that time, I have to decide whether to release him or not.”
Carter said Miller “has been a good inmate and not any kind of trouble and has been helpful with the GED program, but I haven’t found anything that applies to a two-for-one for a felony (charge). It’s unusual to have a felony charge in my jail. It’s rare but we had one before — a vehicular manslaughter charge, and he served his full sentence. My policy is clear: it says two-for-one for misdemeanor and less than two-for-one (like two-thirds to one) for trustee status, but that also only applies to misdemeanors.”
Miller’s attorneys had no comment.
The director, who despite being told his movie production had no permission to be on railroad tracks, defied that and put his unsuspecting crew on live tracks on February 20, 2014. Assistant camerawoman Sarah Jones was killed when a train plowed through the set and several more were injured. Miller was sentenced to two years in jail last year for criminal trespassing and felony involuntary manslaughter.
However, his lawyer argued in a motion for his client’s early release last year — that would have taken him out of jail around the holidays (which was denied in January) — that he, Assistant D.A. John Johnson and Carter had agreed to a two-for-one deal made out in the hallway prior to trial. As part of that alleged deal, his client would only serve one year with time off for good behavior — which meant that he would be released on March 9, 2016.
That was surprising news both to the sheriff and the Jones family. In fact, Carter said that hallway agreement with him was “flat-out not true” and he was only asked in that meeting if Miller could be housed in his jail. The Jones family also said that they thought they were agreeing to a full-two year sentence at the time. The Assistant D.A. said there was an understanding of the jail’s policy; in state prison, they do not implement a two-for-one option. Johnson then argued against Miller’s early release, calling the director “arrogant” and saying that even asking for early release was further evidence he has failed to take responsibility for his actions. That notion was disputed by Miller’s attorney in yet another motion.
“If we had understood that there was any chance that he was not serving the full two years, neither Elizabeth nor I would have agreed to that,” Jones’ father Richard Jones told Deadline this morning. He said when he asked Johnson about the two-for-one that suddenly popped up last year in a motion filed by Miller’s attorney Ed Garland, “Mr. Johnson said that he thought he had told us that prior to, but neither Elizabeth nor I remember him saying that to us, and in fact, there is no way we would have agreed to anything but Miller serving his full time.”
The news about the possible release of Miller, first before March 9 and then on March 9, prompted a flurry of letter writing and a petition from each side — those who sided with the Jones family and felt that the helmer should serve the entire two years, and those who sided with Miller and his friends and family who argued for his early release. Carter said it was about a 50/50 split of letters asking for Miller to be released early and those who wished that he remain for his full sentence. One of those letters was from Sarah Jones’ parents (read it here).