Allman film director jailed in Georgia seeks early release

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2015 2:23 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A movie director sentenced to jail for the on-set death of a camera assistant asked a Georgia judge to set him free less than a year after he began serving time for the fatal train collision during shooting of a film about singer Gregg Allman.

Former "Midnight Rider" director Randall Miller has been locked up at the Wayne County jail since March, when he pleaded guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. The charges stemmed from the death of Sarah Jones, 27, who was run over by a freight train that plowed into Miller's crew as it filmed a scene on a railroad bridge.

Miller was sentenced to two years in jail as part of a deal with prosecutors that allowed him to avoid standing trial — and a possible 11-year prison term if a jury convicted him. Now that Miller has served fewer than 10 months behind bars, his attorneys say he should be released early because of his good behavior as well as concerns for Miller's health.

"Mr. Miller has relived the day of the accident over and over and has taken full responsibility," Miller's attorneys said in a legal motion. "Many other people share responsibility for the accident that happened on Feb. 20, but Mr. Miller knows he bears ultimately responsibility for the safety of case and crew, and he feels immensely guilty that he let them down."

A hearing on Miller's request scheduled before a judge Wednesday was cancelled and attorneys on both sides planned to submit written arguments on the early release motion, said Betty Taylor, a court clerk.

An attorney for Jones' parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, said they hope to stop Miller from walking free anytime soon.

"They're planning on opposing the early release," said Jeff Harris, who has represented the Jones family in a lawsuit.

Miller's attorneys say his family is concerned that recent weight gain, shortness of breath and elevated blood pressure the 53-year-old director has experienced in jail may be signs of congestive heart failure.

They also insist Miller has been a model prisoner who has worked long hours in the jail laundry and helped tutor other prisoners working toward GEDs. Miller's lawyers say he also agreed to help the sheriff and a judge produce a film on the local drug court by raising money from Hollywood connections and editing video from a workspace inside the jail.

Miller's attorneys, Ed Garland and Don Samuel, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. District Attorney Jackie Johnson's office was closed and she did not immediately reply to an email message.

Even if the judge denies Miller's request for immediate release, he might not remain jailed much longer. His lawyers say in their legal motion that Wayne County Sheriff John Carter has the authority to reduce Miller's sentence by half for good behavior — meaning he could eligible for release in early March.