‘Midnight Rider’ Assistant Director Sentenced
There's a new set of charges in the Gregg Allman biopic tragedy. Midnight Rider's first assistant director, Hillary Schwartz, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass on Tuesday (March 10) in the death of Sarah Jones, a camera assistant who was killed during filming.
Schwartz, who pled not guilty when indicted in September, appeared in Wayne County, Ga., superior court, waiving her right to a jury and receiving a bench trial. According to Billboard, her sentence includes 10 years of probation and a $5,000 fine. She also cannot serve as director, producer, first A.D. or any department head responsible for crew safety on any film or TV production during that time.
In Schwartz's role on the film, she was partially responsibility for the safety measurements taken. A bulletin on railroad safety was supposed to be part of the shoot's call sheet, and numerous other safety actions, such as having railroad officials present and keeping objects off the tracks, were not followed, said the lone witness in the case, Wayne County sheriff's department detective Joe Gardner. He also confirmed that Jones was pushed into the way of the train by a prop.
"I'd like to take a moment just to emphasize in the film industry the importance of the A.D. They are in charge of safety. That emphasizes that Hillary Schwartz apparently failed in her duty," Jones' father Richard told judge Anthony Harrison before the sentencing. "That being said, this is a very difficult decision for [Sarah's mother] Elizabeth and myself, but considering the situation, we are in agreement with the D.A. for this resolution."
Because Schwartz helped prosecutors reconstruct the events of Jones' death and understand the film shoot's logistics, she received a probation.
"We looked at recommending some time, and I spoke to the family about that, but in light of the cooperation of her and her counsel in putting this case together, we would ask the court consider a probative sentence," district attorney Jackie Johnson told the judge, who accepted the sentence.
"I have considered, Ms. Schwartz, the impact that this tragedy has had on your life and the fact that you did come forward in bring this matter out in the open and to a conclusion," Judge Harrison said.
Midnight Rider's director, Randall Miller, and executive producer, Jay Sedrish, were previously sentenced in Jones' death after pleading guilty. Miller received a 10-year sentence, serving two years in jail and eight in probation, a $20,000 fine and 360 hours of community service. Sedrish received 10 years of probation and a $10,000 fine. The charges against Miller’s wife and producer on the film, Jody Savin, were dropped.
Allman himself originally faced charges as well, but they were dropped last year. Midnight Rider is based on Allman’s 2012 autobiography My Cross to Bear.