EXCLUSIVE: On what is the four-year mark of the death of their 27-year-old daughter Sarah Jones on a train track in Georgia for the film Midnight Rider, Richard and Elizabeth Jones are en route to a Jessup, GA courthouse this morning, where tomorrow they will fight to keep in place the film’s director Randall Miller’s three-year supervision in California. Miller has petitioned the court to remove his supervision.
While Miller will not be there, he received that probation as part of a plea bargain where he pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter that led to Jones’ death and the serious injury of members of his crew.
Under the plea agreement with prosecutors in 2015, Miller was sentenced to 10 years — two years in Wayne County, GA, jail, and eight years probation — and had to pay a $20,000 fine and perform 360 hours of community service, to be served in California. Under terms of the probation, Miller also agreed in court not to serve as director, assistant director or supervisor in charge of safety on any film production for 10 years.
Miller was released from Wayne County jail after only one year in a decision that stunned those in Hollywood.
The Joneses believe the disgraced director should serve his full sentence: “He agreed to do this and we feel very strongly about him completing his sentence,” said Richard Jones. “We do not want to send a message to the industry that you can go back to court and get a lighter sentence. That sends the wrong message to Hollywood.”
Miller’s attorneys did not return calls for comment.
This comes on the same day that The Sarah Jones Foundation has given a number of student grants to foster safety through awareness and accountability. This is the second year the foundation — started by the Jones family — have awarded safety grants of $2,500 each to film students who use the funding for safety-related expenses on their student films.
SJFF is also giving a $2,500 gift to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to use for safety-related procedures and personnel.
“This is our second year and we are expanding the program, and we’re very excited to be working with such elite film programs with both Columbia University and USC,” said Jones. “This is another step towards expanding this initiative nationwide.”
Tonight at the Harmony Gold Theater in Los Angeles beginning at 7 PM, injured Midnight Rider crew member Joyce Gilliard will be speaking about safety issues along with Deborah Hershman, the wife of camera assistant Brent Hershman, whose 1997 death prompted the first push about the dangers of drowsy driving in the industry; actor-director Anson Williams; and Army Wives actress Wendy Davis. The “Let’s Talk Safety” panel is presented by Gilliard’s iSafe! organization.