Like Midnight Rider’s director before her, the film’s first assistant director Hillary Schwartz asked for and was denied leniency by a Georgia court for her part in the death of her 27 year-old crew member Sarah Jones. Schwartz had motioned the court for a shortened sentence last year asking that her probation end. She was sentenced to 10 years probation in March 2015 for criminal trespass and felony involuntary manslaughter for her role in the camera assistant’s death.
The motion was heard on Dec. 18th, compelling Jones’ parents to once again travel to Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison’s courtroom in Georgia right before their fifth Christmas without their daughter to oppose Schwartz’s motion. Sarah Jones’ father Richard Jones said at the time that it would undermine everything (the family and industry) have worked to accomplish in the wake of their daughter’s death. “We are working to change the culture of an industry,” he said and added that there is “the necessity to hold those who made decisions that led to Sarah’s tragic death fully accountable … let us continue to change a culture to one of safety and respect for all.”
Schwartz’s motion stated that she “has been employed outside of the film industry with no intention of returning to her prior career.” In fact, neither she nor unit production manager Jay Sedrish (who also plead guilty) are listed on the Director’s Guild roster anymore. However, Midnight Rider director Randall Miller still is. Sedrish is the only member of the guilty crew not to have asked for leniency from the court-imposed sentence.
However, Judge Harrison on March 14th opposed the motion (Deadline received the court filing this AM): “When this Court sentenced Schwartz, one of its primary considerations was Sarah’s family’s desire to give her death meaning in the film industry — to have it serve as a lesson on the need to address safety issues in the industry. As the first assistant director on the film, Schwartz’s duties including (sic) ensuring that the film sets were safe and implementing safety plans for film production. In connection therewith, she was required to conduct daily safety meetings. Schwartz failed to fulfill her duties in this regard, and Sarah Jones died as a result.” Read it here.
The Court noted that while Schwartz seems to be “an exemplary probationer,” it is denying the motion, stating, “Though the Court may, at some point in the future, find that the continuation of Schwartz’s probation no longer serves the purpose for which it was imposed, it does not find so at this time.”