Alec Baldwin will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the death of Halyna Hutchins. New Mexico prosecutors have been weighing whether to bring criminal charges for months. Halyna, a rising cinematographer, was killed on the set of Rust when a gun Baldwin was holding discharged during rehearsals. He's repeatedly maintained he did not pull the trigger. The 30 Rock star is just one of three people authorities believe played a role in Halyna's death.
"This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins's tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set," the actor's attorney, Luke Nikas of Quinn Emanuel, tells Yahoo Entertainment. "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."
Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will also be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Assistant director David Halls has agreed to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon. The terms include a suspended sentence and six months of probation. Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, announced the decision on Thursday morning. New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies will formally file charges with New Mexico's First Judicial District Court before the end of the month.
"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."
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be "charged in the alternative" with the two counts of manslaughter. That means a jury will decide not simply if they are guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they are guilty. According to Thursday's news release:
The first charge can be referred to simply as involuntary manslaughter. For this charge to be proved there must be underlying negligence. Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. This charge also includes the misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law.
The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. This charge requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. This is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, because a firearm was involved. The firearm enhancement 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 Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by the D.A. to the case. "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."
A lawyer for Matthew Hutchins, Halyna's widow with whom she shared a young son, said he is pleased charges will be brought and will cooperate with prosecutors.
"We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life. Our independent investigation also supports that charges are warranted," Brian J. Panish tells Yahoo Entertainment. "It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law."
Halyna was killed on Oct. 21, 2021 as Baldwin rehearsed with a .45 Colt revolver. The script required Baldwin to cock the gun. He claimed in a legal filing of his own that Halyna wanted him to practice the scene as indicated. Baldwin claimed he pulled back the hammer, but not far enough to actually cock the gun. When the actor let go of the hammer, the gun went off. Baldwin, who hired a private investigator, previously said he didn't think he'd face criminal charges.
The gun was loaded with live ammunition instead of dummy rounds. Baldwin said he was told by Halls the gun was "cold," which meant it contained no live ammo. When the revolver discharged, a live round struck both Halyna and director Joel Souza. Souza was injured, but not critically.
A FBI forensic report released in August determined the revolver could not have been fired without someone pulling the trigger "when the hammer was struck directly." The report also noted that 150 live rounds of ammunition were found on the set.
But how did the live ammo end up in set — and in the gun? Whose fault was it? That was at the center of the Santa Fe County Sheriff's yearlong investigation. It handed the case over to Carmack-Altwies in October. Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, who led the initial investigation, described "a degree of neglect" on set, but ultimately the decision to bring criminal charges was up to the D.A.'s office.
Baldwin, who stars in the Western film, is also one of the co-producers. He's denied responsibility in various interviews. There is multiple ongoing litigation over the tragedy and many of the main players are pointing fingers at each other.
In November, as part of a cross complaint, Baldwin filed a lawsuit against Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, prop supplier Seth Kenney and prop master Sarah Zachry. Halls countersued Baldwin and other crew members. A lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed publicly blamed Baldwin. But those most affected by Halyna's death — Matthew and their son, Andros — have no legal stake in this anymore. (Matthew filed a wrongful-death lawsuit last year.)
In October, Baldwin and the Rust producers announced a settlement with Matthew. Production on the film is reportedly set to resume this month in California with "all the original principal players on board," according to The Hollywood Reporter, plus one addition. Matthew will serve as executive producer.
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