Actor and co-producer of ‘Rust’, Alec Baldwin is facing criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter over the fatal film-set shooting of Halyna Hutchins, a cinematographer during a rehearsal of the western film Rust.
Baldwin had been rehearsing a scene for the Western film Rust when the shooting happened at a ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico in October 2021.
The film’s armorer overseeing weapons, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, is also set to face the same charge.
Also, the production’s assistant director, David Halls, is yet to plead guilty to a minor offence charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and to spend six months serving probation.
According to the Santa Fe DA, Mary Carmack-Altwies, the charges and plea deal will take place on Thursday January 19.
“On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice,” Carmack noted in a statement.
“If any of these three people, (Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez Reed or David Halls) had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today.” Andrea Reeb, added.
Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas, however said, his client had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun, on the day Hutchins was killed. He condemned the charges against the actor terming it ‘a terrible miscarriage of justice’.
“We will fight these charges, and we will win.” Nikas noted in a statement.
An attorney for Gutierrez Reed, Jason Bowles, said Thursday that he believed jurors would acquit his client of wrongdoing.
Matt Hutchins, an attorney for Hutchins’s husband issued his own statement thanking Carmack-Altwies and calling the charges her office plans to pursue ‘a comfort’.
“We … fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law,” noted in a statement attributed to attorney Brian Panish.
Carmack-Altwies’s office also announced that Rust’s director, Joel Souza, would not face any charges in connection with the shooting death of the 42-year-old Hutchins. Souza had been shot and injured alongside Hutchins on the day she was mortally wounded.
Hutchins died shortly after being shot during setup for a scene at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on 21 October 2021. Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding Souza.
Santa Fe’s county sheriff, Adan Mendoza, who led the initial investigation into Hutchins’s death, described ‘a degree of neglect’ on the film set.
But he left decisions about potential criminal charges to prosecutors after delivering the results of a year-long investigation in October 2022.
Taking control of the investigation, Carmack-Altwies was granted an emergency $300,000 request for the state to pay for a special prosecutor, special investigator and other experts and personnel.
On Thursday, she said her office was prepared to ask a jury to convict Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed of involuntary manslaughter.
Involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, meanwhile, would require prosecutors to prove that there was more than simple negligence involved in Hutchins’s death.
Both charges are felonies typically carrying maximum penalties of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. But, in this case, Carmack Altwies’s office has added a so-called firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act charge, meaning anyone convicted of that count would be required to spend five years in prison.
Baldwin, is known for his roles in 30 Rock and The Hunt for Red October and his impression of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, describing the killing of Hutchins as a ‘tragic accident’.
Baldwin last year settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Hutchins’s family for an undisclosed sum. He has sought to clear his name by suing people involved in handling and supplying the loaded gun that was handed to him on set. Baldwin, also a co-producer on Rust, said he was told the gun was safe.
In his lawsuit, Baldwin said that while working on camera angles with Hutchins during rehearsal for a scene, he pointed the gun in her direction and pulled back and released the hammer of the gun, which discharged.
New Mexico’s office of the medical investigator determined the shooting was an accident following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports.