Alec Baldwin has been indicted in the fatal shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after a grand jury presented with a new investigation into the incident recommended charging the actor and producer of the low-budget Western.
Baldwin is expected to be charged by New Mexico prosecutors, who initially dropped the criminal case to review new evidence suggesting that the gun he was holding had been modified. The five-month investigation culminated with a forensic expert issuing a report clashing with an account of the incident from Baldwin, who maintained that did not pull the trigger on the firearm when it discharged.
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Baldwin faces a sentence of 18 months in prison if convicted. It remains unknown if he’ll be arrested.
“We look forward to our day in court,” said Baldwin’s attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, in a statement issued Friday.
Special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The shooting occurred Oct. 21, 2021, when an old-fashioned revolver being handled by Baldwin went off when he was practicing drawing the prop firearm. Prior to that, assistant director David Halls handed Baldwin the weapon and said that it did not contain live ammunition, but it discharged in the direction of Hutchins, who was killed, and director Joel Souza, who was injured. Five live rounds mixed in with dummy rounds were found on set following the shooting. It remains unknown how the live rounds ended up on the set.
The refiling of charges would put a brighter spotlight on the prosecution, which has been marred by high-profile blunders. At the top of the list: Downgrading charges against Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed after they cited a firearm law that was not in effect at the time of the shooting and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb, who was part of the team that initially charged Baldwin, being forced to step down due to a conflict of interest with her elected position in the New Mexico House of Representatives, with leaked emails indicating that she sought to leverage the case for political gain. Santa Fe county District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who appointed Reeb, subsequently excused herself from all matters related to the prosecution.
When Baldwin was initially charged in January 2023, prosecutors alleged Baldwin should have assumed the gun he was handling was loaded with live rounds and known that “the first rule of gun safety is never to point a gun at someone you don’t intend on shooting,” according to the statement of probable cause. He also neglected to undergo “required firearms training prior to the commencement of filming,” even “after [Gutierrez-Reed] requested more training.” The actor was also alleged to have fostered an unsafe set by hiring Gutierrez-Reed as lead armorer and neglected to address multiple safety violations before the shooting, including prior misfires. A New Mexico safety agency later found numerous “serious” violations of safety protocols and fined the production $100,000.
“This reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol directly caused the fatal shooting,” read the statement. “Baldwin acted with willful disregard of the safety of others and in a manner which endangered other people.”
Before the grand jury was convened, a New Mexico judge ruled that the movie’s production entity must turn over records that could indicate whether Baldwin shirked industrywide set-safety norms to shoot the film on a shoestring budget. Prosecutors are seeking documents between Rust Movie Productions and the actor, as well as his production company El Dorado Pictures. They are investigating the possibility that Baldwin stood to profit if he cut corners on set safety related to the use of guns.
The ruling was delivered after the judge declined to dismiss charges in August against Gutierrez-Reed, who who argued that prosecutors tainted the investigation to the point a fair trial is no longer possible, didn’t have the authority to bring a case against her and that her due process rights were violated. Prosecutors in June charged her with evidence tampering, alleging she “did transfer narcotics to another person with the intent to prevent the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of herself.” She was also alleged to have been “drinking heavily and smoking marijuana” in the evening during the filming of Rust and likely being hungover when she loaded the gun that discharged with a live round. Further details weren’t disclosed. Her trial is scheduled to start in February.
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