On Thursday, prosecutors in Santa Fe, New Mexico, announced that actor Alec Baldwin would be charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust.
First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a written statement that the film’s armourer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is also being prosecuted for the same crimes.
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The release also states that David Halls, the assistant director, “has signed a plea agreement for the allegation of negligent use of a lethal weapon.”
Special prosecutor Andrea Reeb claimed, “Halyna Hutchins would be alive today if any one of these three people—Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, or David Halls—had done their job.” Halls, Baldwin, and Reeb were all chosen by Carmack-Altwies. “It’s that simple.”
Reeb remarked that the case evidence “clearly reveals a pattern of criminal disregard for safety” on the film set.
Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, described the decision to press charges as “a horrific miscarriage of justice” and a “perversion of a tragedy.”
He “trusted the specialists with whom he worked, who informed him the rifle did not hold live ammunition,” Nikas said in a statement to NPR. We intend to defend ourselves against these false accusations.
Baldwin shot and killed Hutchins in October 2021 using a Colt.45 calibre pistol. A scene from the Western was being rehearsed at the moment.
Baldwin has maintained that Hutchins’ death was an unfortunate accident, claiming that Hutchins did not purposefully discharge the weapon and was unaware that it contained live ammo during the rehearsal.
So, what exactly are Baldwin’s accusations?
Both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are “charged in the alternative,” meaning they face two counts of involuntary manslaughter each. Prosecutors said they want a jury to decide not only if the pair is guilty, but which form of involuntary manslaughter should apply to the events around Hutchins’ death.
Both accusations are fourth-degree felonies, carrying a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of $5,000. Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed risk a maximum of five years in jail if they are convicted of the lesser felony without the firearm enhancement.
Prosecutors would have to prove fundamental carelessness contributed to the shooting death in order to prosecute the defendant with involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors also noted that this charge would “likely” combine with a lesser count of negligent use of a firearm.
The alternative charge is involuntary manslaughter while committing a legitimate act, which would require proof that causes other than negligence played a role in Hutchins’ death. Adding a firearm enhancement to the original accusation carries a minimum sentence of five years in jail for the accused actor or armourer.
Attorney Jason Bowles, who represented Gutierrez-Reed, told NPR that his client “has always been really affected by the news of this horrific event emotionally. On the other hand, she did not engage in willful murder.”
Bowles said, “We plan to bring the complete truth to light and believe Hannah will be exonerated of wrongdoing by a jury,” after calling the government inquiry “flawed.”
The prosecutors have stated that official charges will be brought by the end of this month, initiating the legal process.