Alec Baldwin and others charged in Halyna Hutchins’ on-set death

More than a year after the fatal shooting, Santa Fe County prosecutors announced they will charge star and producer Baldwin, as well as the film’s armorer, in connection with the cinematographer’s death.

Prosecutors in New Mexico confirmed on Thursday that Alec Baldwin would face criminal charges in connection with his role in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of Rust.

Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin 

The district attorney for Santa Fe County, Mary Carmack-Altwies, will charge actress and producer Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with two counts of involuntary manslaughter each.

Assistant director David Halls also agreed to a plea deal for negligent use of a deadly weapon. A suspended sentence and six months of probation are among the penalties.

The allegations were announced more than a year after the death of Halyna Hutchins, who was shot on October 21, 2021, when an old-fashioned revolver handled by Baldwin went off.  He was handed the gun by Halls and told that it did not contain live ammunition, but it discharged, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. (No charges are being filed in connection with Souza’s injury.) Five live rounds mixed in with dummy rounds were found on set following the shooting.

“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the Rust film crew,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”

Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s lawyer, stressed in a statement that his client “relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.”

“This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice,” he said. “Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set.”

Jason Bowles, Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer, said in a statement that the charges are the “result of a very flawed investigation and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts.”

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with manslaughter on both counts. According to the DA’s announcement, if a jury finds either of them guilty, it will also determine under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they are guilty.

Negligence is required to prove involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree crime in New Mexico, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. It involves a misdemeanor allegation of negligent firearm usage.

The jury could also find involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which requires proof that Hutchins’ death was caused by more than simple negligence. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, according to the DA, which carries an added penalty and makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.

“If any one of these three people — Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, or David Halls — had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple,” said special prosecutor Andrea Reeb in a statement Thursday. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the Rust film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”

Before the end of the month, the DA’s office will bring charges in New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court. A preliminary hearing will be scheduled within 60 days of the charges being filed. According to the release, COVID constraints have changed processes, and during the hearing, a judge will act as a grand jury, hearing the DA and special prosecutor present their case and deciding “if there is probable cause to proceed with a trial.”

Baldwin has maintained that he did not pull the trigger, despite the fact that an FBI forensics study determined that the gun could not have been shot unless the trigger was pressed while it was primed. It’s unknown how live rounds ended up on the set.

The decision to charge from the district attorney’s office that serves Santa Fe County comes more than a year after the fatal shooting and more than two months since the county sheriff’s office delivered its investigative report — and as plans to finish the movie march forward in the wake of a settlement between Rust Movie Productions and Hutchins’ family. Filming resumed in January outside of New Mexico, where filming of the movie first took place before it was suspended, with Hutchins’ husband as an executive producer.

Brian Panish, who represented Hutchins’ family in their settlement with Rust Movie Productions, said in a statement that he supports the charges and will cooperate with the prosecution.