EXCLUSIVE: UPDATE, 12:45 PM: Looks like both Randall Miller and the family of Sarah Jones will have to wait a while longer to discover if the Midnight Rider director could be going back to jail or not.
A hearing (exclusively revealed by Deadline last week) on the possible probation violation by the once again working filmmaker that was scheduled for June 17 at the at the Wayne County Courthouse in Jesup, Georgia and online has been moved to July 22.
“Technical issues” was the reason given for the more than a month long delay.
This postponement comes as prosectors and lawyers for Miller have already de facto clashed outside the courthouse on whether a warrant should be issued for the Californian-based director. However, the shift today from the court clerk’s office does give Miller some significant breathing room over if his helming of the comedy Higher Grounds overseas last year was out of bounds or not.
Having served a year behind bars for after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter over the 2014 death of 27-year old camera assistant Jone on the set on Midnight Rider, Miller was released on probation in mid-2016.
The same day that Mille got out, Judge Anthony Harrison set out probation rules that stated Miller is “prohibited from serving as director, first assistant director or supervisor with responsibility for safety in any film production for a decade. Miller’s side claim there is a grey area in those restrictions that allowed him to actually direct again. The County D.A.’s office and the family of Sarah Jones don’t see it that way – both parties were shocked when informed by Deadline last month that Miller had made another movie.
Judge Harrison is on the docket to oversee next month’s hearing, for now.
PREVIOUSLY, JUNE 10 PM: Randall Miller’s lenient interpretation of his probation is about to face some hard truths in a Georgia courtroom.
Nearly six and a half years after Sarah Jones was killed on the set of Midnight Rider, Miller and his lawyers are going to be figuratively back in front of a Peach State judge in a hearing to determine if the director violated the conditions of his probation when he helmed the comedy Higher Grounds last year.
Partially at the Wayne County Courthouse in Jesup, Georgia and partially remotely, the hearing will be held on the morning of June 17, we’ve learned.
Facing a requested arrest warrant and likely extradition from California back to Georgia for the disgraced director, Miller’s attorneys have been fighting for the hearing in front of Judge Anthony Harrison as an alternative to the dispute. The immediate purpose of next week’s hearing will be to decide if such a warrant for probation violation should be issued or not.
“We will be fully prepared to a presentation at the hearing to show why no warrant for violation of his probation should be issued,” Miller’s lead lawyer Ed Garland told Deadline today of the order for hearing made official yesterday. “We will make the arguments set forth in the brief which we filed, he added.
“The defense urges the court to deny the application for a warrant,” proclaims a June 2 memorandum from the Atlanta firm of Garland, Samuel & Loeb that was made public on June 5, as Deadline reported.
Wayne County Assistant District Attorney John Johnson told Deadline on May 29 that in his opinion Miller clearly violated his probation by directing the Serbia, UK and Columbia shot Higher Grounds. That day the D.A.’s office asked Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision to issue a warrant for Miller.
Back at the end of May, ADA Johnson said that if after a hearing before a judge, Miller is found to have violated his probation then “the time remaining on his probation could be revoked” and the Golden State-based director could be returned to jail in Georgia.
When reached today, ADA Johnson had no comment on the hearing date now being set.
Also first exclusively reported by Deadline on May 27, the Higher Grounds gig came with less than six years remaining on Miller’s 10-year probation (expiring on March 8, 2025) for the 2014 death of 27-year-old camera assistant Jones on the first day of filming Midnight Rider, a biopic of Greg Allman.
Prior to receiving probation, Miller had spent a year in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Jones case. He was released from jail on March 23, 2016
That same day, the same Judge Anthony Harrison who will be overseeing next week’s hearing laid out probation rules that stated the filmmaker is “prohibited from serving as director, first assistant director or supervisor with responsibility for safety in any film production.” (Read Miller’s probation document yourself here.)
After several unsuccessful attempts to tweak his probation, Miller was given unsupervised probation from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit’s Department of Community Supervision in November 2018.
In the opinion of Miller’s lawyers, including one who ended up as an EP on the Miller produced Higher Grounds, that is what allowed him to travel to overseas to film the coffee-based comedy.
To handle safety matters, the production starring Glow actress Kate Nash as a vegan barista employed Jason Allen as the pic’s Assistant Director and Associate Producer in Charge of Safety. Allen was given complete authority to oversee safety on the set by the DGA, and to stop production if scenes proved dangerous. However, there weren’t any action scenes in the film.
Once discovering that Miller was back behind the camera, something that believed he would never be able to do for many years, the parents of Sarah Jones have asked the Directors Guild of America end Miller’s long membership.
“To us, his actions were blatantly defiant and egregiously disrespectful to the entire creative community, to the six crew members who were injured while filming Midnight Rider, and to the memory of Sarah Jones, who died on Mr. Miller’s set as a direct result of the unsafe conditions that he willfully and illegally created,” said Richard and Elizabeth Jones in a statement to Deadline on May 27.
The DGA has not responded to either the Jones or Deadline on this matter. However, from what sources have told us, Randall Miller is still a member in good standing at the DGA.
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