Prosecutors in New Mexico downgraded the involuntary manslaughter charges against actor Alec Baldwin for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyana Hutchins on the set of “Rust” in October 2021.
The “30 Rock” actor was holding a prop gun on the set of “Rust” when it discharged and fired a live round — shooting and killing Hutchins. He was formally charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in January, per the Deseret News.
Baldwin’s legal team argued that the Santa Fe district attorney incorrectly charged Baldwin under a New Mexico firearm law, “firearm enhancement,” which was passed just months after the fatal shooting. The actor’s lawyers argued that prosecutors committed “an unconstitutional and legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a statute that did not exist under the state of the accident,” per NPR.
Court documents filed on Friday show that Baldwin still faces one charge of involuntary manslaughter and could spend a maximum of 18 months behind bars. If Baldwin had been charged under firearm enhancement law he would face a minimum of 5 years in prison.
In a statement made to NPR on Monday, Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico 1st District Attorney, said the decision to drop the firearm enhancement law on Baldwin’s case was to speed up his court process.
“In order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the district attorney and the special prosecutor have removed the firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the ‘Rust’ film set,” Brewer said.
“The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys” she added.
The changes made to Baldwin’s case also apply to Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on “Rust” who was responsible for all ammunition and weapons on set, reports The New York Times. Gutierrez-Reed loaded the gun on the day of the shooting with what was supposed to be all dummy rounds.
Baldwin maintains his innocence — he claims he had no knowledge that the gun had live rounds in it and that he did not intentionally fire it.
“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s lawyer, said in a statement on Thursday, per The New York Times. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win.”
Will ‘Rust’ complete filming?
Yes. There are plans to resume filming for “Rust” with Baldwin in the lead role.
Bianca Cline (“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”) will take over Hutchins’ role as cinematographer on set, the film’s producers, Rust Movie Productions, confirmed on Tuesday. In honor of Hutchins, Cline plans to donate her salary to charity, per Deadline.
Hutchins’ widower, Matthew, approved a documentary about her which will explore her life and “final work, including the completion of the film,” according to director Rachel Mason and producer Julee Metz, per the BBC. Matthew Hutchins will serve as an executive producer on the documentary and “Rust.”
“Both Mason and Metz were close friends with Halyna, and they look forward to working with the production to honor their friend and show the brilliance and depth of Halyna’s talent while conveying what her loss has meant to her friends, colleagues and the entire film industry,” said Rust Movie Productions in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter.
Baldwin was rehearsing a scene for “Rust” on the New Mexico set when he fired a prop gun on set, which fatally shot Hutchins. That scene has been rewritten. And “any use of working weapons and any form of ammunition” has been banned from set, per the BBC.