On Tuesday, prosecutors in New Mexico charged actor Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of a cameraman on set. The charges included a lengthy list of alleged violations in weapons safety.
"Prosecutors Slam Alec Baldwin’s ‘Inconsistent Accounts’ of Deadly Rust Shooting in Newly Released Charging Docs"
Inside the flood of paperwork just released by the DA's office, @LawCrimeNews.
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) January 31, 2023
On October 21, 2021, Halyna Hutchins was shot while practicing at a ranch outside of Santa Fe. She did not survive her wounds. As Baldwin pointed the gun toward Hutchins, it accidentally discharged, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.
Baldwin and the weapons master on the set of the picture The death of Hutchins on the set of the Western film “Rust” has resulted in involuntary manslaughter accusations being brought against cast member Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
Defendants can be charged with manslaughter if they are found responsible for someone else’s death while engaging in authorized but risky behavior.
Both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed have stated their innocence and promised to fight the allegations.
Prosecutors claim the film’s development was plagued by a careless disregard for safety from the very beginning, as detailed in newly filed court documents. Both Baldwin’s decision as a producer to hire Gutierrez-Reed, an uncertified and untrained armorer, and his failure as an actor to show up for required firearms training before production is cited.
The probable cause statement details the ten days leading up to Hutchins’ death, beginning with misfires on set and a walkout by the camera crew and ending with Baldwin’s finger coming to rest on the trigger of a handgun.
According to the probable cause statement compiled by the Santa Fe district attorney’s office, “Baldwin’s deviation from accepted standards, practices, and protocol directly caused the fatality of Hutchins.” This was stated by special investigator Robert Shilling.
Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s attorney, declined to comment on Tuesday, pointing instead to a prior statement in which he called the allegations an “awful miscarriage of justice” and promised that his client will “fight and win” the case.
“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set,” the statement said. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked.”
The lawyer representing Gutierrez-Reed indicated a statement would be issued later.
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told The Associated Press on January 19 that Baldwin should have known there had been previous misfires on the set and many people had raised safety concerns because the set was “actually being operated pretty fast and loose.” Baldwin was the “one who handled the gun, pointed the gun, and pulled the trigger,” she said.
On Tuesday, charges will be filed against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed, and they will be required to appear in court, perhaps by webcam. Instead of convening a grand jury, prosecutors will ask the judge to rule on whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. It may take up to 60 days to reach a conclusion.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are being prosecuted for manslaughter under two sets of criteria, each with potentially severe consequences for a conviction.
In one version, you’d have to prove negligence, which is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine in New Mexico.
The alternative is to act “without due caution and circumspection,” which is with complete disregard for possible risks. In addition to the higher standard of culpability, the use of a firearm in the commission of the crime carries with it the possibility of an additional five years of incarceration (the “firearm enhancement”).
Prosecutors have indicated that a jury must pick which definition of manslaughter to pursue.
Lawyer Kate Mangels, whose practice includes entertainment cases, said the prosecution had provided a thorough analysis of Baldwin’s safety responsibilities as an actor and producer on “Rust.”
“The fact that they separated out Alec Baldwin the actor versus Alec Baldwin the producer shows to me that they’re potentially foreseeing a challenge to his culpability as to either of those roles,” said Mangles, who is based in Santa Monica, California. “So they want to differentiate … and provide a robust analysis of both of those separately.”
According to their findings, Baldwin’s series of careless safety lapses culminated when he pulled a pistol from his holster, pointed it at Hutchins and discharged it.
The FBI study confirms the weapon could not be discharged without hitting the trigger, and photos and videos from the practice, including from just before the fatal shot, show Baldwin with his finger within the trigger guard and on the trigger.
Baldwin claims he was assured the.45 caliber revolver was safe to use before the shooting, despite his earlier description of the incident as a terrible accident. The 64-year-old actor has filed a lawsuit against those who had access to the loaded rifle in an effort to clear his identity.
In his lawsuit, Baldwin claimed that he and Hutchins were experimenting with camera angles when Baldwin pointed the revolver at Hutchins and drew back, releasing the hammer.
Gutierrez-lawyer, Reed’s Jason Bowles, said the accusations stem from a “flawed inquiry” and an “inaccurate grasp of the complete facts.”
Baldwin’s 40-year career has included the early blockbuster “The Hunt for Red October,” a starring role in the sitcom “30 Rock,” and iconic appearances in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and a film adaptation of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.” The decision to charge Baldwin is a shocking turn of events. Baldwin gained notoriety in recent years for his parody of former U.S. President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”
Prosecutors have stated that assistant director David Halls’ (who handled set safety) proposed plea agreement cannot be made public until it has been authorized by a judge.
Prosecutors said Halls consented to plead guilty to negligent use of a dangerous weapon and explained that he may have incorrectly handled the gun before giving it to Baldwin.
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