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Alec Baldwin, crew member to be charged with involuntary manslaughter in ‘Rust’ shooting


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New Mexico prosecutors on Thursday announced plans to charge actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust.” A third worker on the set, first assistant director David Halls, signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

“On my watch no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice,” Mary Carmack-Altwies, district attorney for the Santa Fe area, said in a statement.

“If any one of these three people […] had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today,” special prosecutor Andrea Reeb added. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set.”

Prosecutors stated that they will file the criminal charges at the end of the month. If convicted, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed could face up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine per charge — or even stiffer punishments based on what a jury decides.

Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, said in a statement Thursday that the decision to pursue charges “distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death,” calling it “a terrible miscarriage of justice.”

“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” Nikas said. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.”

Attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed — Jason Bowles and Todd J. Bullion — said their client “is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident.” They pushed back on the validity of the charges, describing them as “the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts.”

Representatives for Baldwin have not returned The Washington Post’s request for comment.

The shooting occurred Oct. 21, 2021, inside a church building on Santa Fe’s Bonanza Creek Ranch, where Baldwin was rehearsing a scene with Hutchins and director Joel Souza. Baldwin, who was sitting on a wooden pew, fatally shot Hutchins after discharging a prop firearm. The 42-year-old cinematographer was taken by helicopter to an Albuquerque hospital and pronounced dead. Souza was injured in the shooting and released from a hospital soon afterward.

The ensuing investigation captivated and disturbed the public, exploring how a loaded firearm might have wound up on a film set. Affidavits alleged that Gutierrez-Reed, the then-24-year-old armorer tasked with safely handling all firearms on set, believed the .45 Long Colt revolver was loaded with dummy rounds. Halls retrieved it from the cart where Gutierrez-Reed left it and called out “cold gun” to indicate it did not contain any live rounds, then handed it to Baldwin for the scene.

Prop master Sarah Zachry told Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office detectives she checked the box of ammunition after the incident and “found some of the cartridges would rattle, which signified them being ‘dummy rounds,’ [while] others did not rattle.”

Gutierrez-Reed said she was not allowed to enter the building because of coronavirus protocols and heard the firearm discharge from outside. After the shooting, her attorneys suggested the sheriff’s office look into Seth Kenney, the businessman who supplied the production with prop weapons and ammo.

Baldwin has spoken publicly about the incident, sitting down for a televised interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos less than two months after it occurred. He told the anchor he did not pull the trigger on the firearm: “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them,” he said. The actor, who also served as a producer on the film, stated that “someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property.”

The “Rust” shooting also spurred a wave of litigation, including multiple lawsuits from crew members alleging negligence on set. Chief lighting technician Serge Svetnoy sued around two dozen people involved with the production, while script supervisor Mamie Mitchell named Baldwin, Gutierrez-Reed, Halls and several producers and production companies. Gutierrez-Reed filed a lawsuit against Kenney, the ammunition supplier. Baldwin sued Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, Kenney and Zachry, the props master. Halls filed a countersuit against Baldwin.

Hutchins’ family sued the same crew members as Baldwin, as well as the actor himself and several other producers and production companies. The family agreed to a settlement with those parties in October.

Attorney Brian Panish, who represents the Hutchins family, thanked prosecutors in a Thursday statement.

“It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law,” Panish said. “We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law.”

The charges were announced in a statement released Thursday morning. Prosecutors don’t plan to hold news conferences or public appearances regarding the matter.

How much jail time could Alec Baldwin and others face?

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative,” according to a news release, meaning that a jury will not only be tasked with determining their level of guilt, but also “under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they were guilty.”

According to prosecutors, one definition of involuntary manslaughter charge implies underlying negligence and includes the misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm. A second type “requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death” and tacks on a penalty referred to as a “firearm enhancement.”

Each involuntary manslaughter charge carries a possible sentence of up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The firearm enhancement is punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.

The terms of Halls’ plea agreement include a suspended sentence and six months of probation. His attorney, Lisa Torraco, said in a statement that “this is the best outcome for Mr. Halls and the case.”

This story has been updated with new information.

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