In letters sent Monday to Wayne County Superior Court Judge Anthony L. Harrison and Sheriff John Carter, Richard Jones asked that Miller serve the full two-year sentence. The term was imposed after Miller pleaded guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in the Feb. 20, 2014, train accident that killed Sarah Jones and injured eight others.
The letter was filed three weeks after Miller’s lawyer had sought leniency for Miller. Attorney Ed Garland had cited Miller’s model behavior as well as deteriorating health in seeking a reduction of his time in custody.
“I truly seek healing for all involved,” Jones said. “There is, however, a need for accountability. It is, after all, apparent that Mr. Miller and his co-defendants displayed gross negligence and a reckless disregard for the safety of their cast and crew.”
Jones noted that Miller had “willingly” entered into the agreement for two years in jail and eight years of probation.
“Beyond Mr. Miller and his co-defendants, there is a need to maintain a strong message to the film industry that those in charge of their cast and crew will be held responsible for their safety … that such recklessness for safety will not be tolerated,” Jones wrote.
“The motion states that Mr. Miller’s family and friends miss him. I can understand and relate to this. But there is a difference. Mr. Miller will return home. Sarah never will.”
Jones also said the letters supporting Garland’s motion are “riddled with untruths and misconception,” noting that one is from Miller’s father-in-law and the other is from Miller’s retired neighbor. He also disputed Garland’s assertion that the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department has a policy whereby inmates can earn “two-for-one credit” for good behavior.
“It was with the understanding that Mr. Miller would serve the full two years in jail for which Elizabeth (Sarah’s mother) and I agreed to accept the plea terms,” he said.
Jones also included an excerpt from an open letter sent to Miller from injured crew member Izabeau Giannakopoulos, who helped pull Miller off the train track: “You are not wrong in feeling that you are not the only person to have made a mistake. It does not mean that you should be exempt or relieved of your penalty. We all have had to accept the circumstances of the aftermath. Each person has had their own, and this is yours.”
Garland noted in the Dec. 7 motion that the 53-year-old director had gained 39 pounds over several weeks and that a nurse had recently found that his blood pressure was elevated. Garland also said Miller had complained of shortness of breath and a persistent cough.
Camera assistant Jones was killed when the production of “Midnight Rider” was shooting on a train trestle near Jesup, Ga., and a train came, forcing cast and crew that didn’t anticipate it to scramble for safety. The production company did not secure a permit from the owner of the tracks, CSX Transportation Corp. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued nearly $75,000 in safety fines.
An appeals panel upheld the sanctions after they were challenged by Film Allman, the company that Miller and his wife, Jody Savin, set up to make the independent feature.
News that Jones had opposed early release was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.