Involuntary manslaughter charges formally filed against Alec Baldwin in ‘Rust’ shooting
Written by ABC Audio All Rights Reserved on February 1, 2023
(SANTA FE, N.M.) — Involuntary manslaughter charges were formally filed Tuesday against actor Alec Baldwin over the fatal shooting on the New Mexico set of the film “Rust.”
Both Baldwin and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, have been charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter over the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021. They are scheduled to make their first court appearance virtually on Feb. 24.
First assistant director David Halls has already agreed to plead no contest for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. The plea agreement is pending a judge’s approval, prosecutors said Tuesday. A plea conference has been scheduled for March 8.
The filing detailed several reasons for the charges, including prosecutors saying that Baldwin’s interviews with media and law enforcement were inconsistent.
“Many media interviews and law enforcement interviews were conducted by Baldwin, and he displayed very inconsistent accounts of what happened during the incident when firing the gun that killed Hutchins,” investigator Robert Shilling wrote in the statement of probable cause.
For one, evidence showed that Baldwin had his finger inside the trigger, and that the trigger was pulled — contradicting his statements saying he never pulled the trigger — according to Shilling. Baldwin had told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in December 2021 that he would “never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger.”
Photos and video “clearly show Baldwin, multiple times, with his finger inside of the trigger guard and on the trigger, while manipulating the hammer and while drawing, pointing, and holstering the revolver,” Shilling wrote.
Shilling also stated that Baldwin had limited firearms training on the set and that no safety meeting was conducted on the day of the fatal shooting, based on statements and evidence.
As a producer, Shilling stated that Baldwin knew the production company hired Guiterrez-Reed as lead armorer despite evidence that she was unqualified, including having “no certification or certifiable training, or union ‘card’ for this practice.” With Guiterrez-Reed also assigned to be an assistant prop master — and thus not focused on her primary responsibility as armorer — Baldwin “violated industry standards and practices by allowing this reckless and generally prohibited practice, resulting in reckless action(s) taking place prior to and on the day of the shooting,” Shilling wrote.
Baldwin, who was listed as the primary producer of “Rust,” “failed to act to mitigate or correct the reckless safety violations, neither in his capacity as actor nor producer,” Shilling wrote.
In Gutierrez-Reed’s charging document, Shilling claimed that the armorer’s “deviation from known standards, practice and protocol directly caused the fatal death of Hutchins.” That included failing to insist that Baldwin have proper firearm training nor correct him on “dangerous” safety violations such as pointing the weapon at people and having his finger on the trigger, not ensuring that a fake gun was used in a rehearsal scene, leaving the set before the fatal shooting and allowing Halls to handle the firearm unsupervised, according to Shilling.
“Her absence from the set allowed the reckless behavior to happen and continue, resulting in the fatal shooting,” Shilling wrote.
In addition to the spent casing of the live round that killed Hutchins, five unspent live rounds were seized from the set, according to the charging document. Gutierrez-Reed “should have caught this live ammunition on set but put everyone on the Rust set in danger by failing to do her job,” Shilling wrote.
Santa Fe First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb announced their decision to file charges on Jan. 19, nearly three months after receiving the local sheriff’s investigation into the shooting.
Carmack-Altwies said Tuesday that her office has “taken another important step in securing justice for Halyna Hutchins.”
“In New Mexico, no one is above the law and justice will be served,” she said in a statement.
Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, called the charging decision “a terrible miscarriage of justice” and vowed to fight the charges.
“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” Nikas said in a statement following the announcement of charges. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.”
Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys, Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion, said in a statement Tuesday that they will “fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty.”
“The filed probable cause statement reveals that the district attorney has completely misunderstood the facts and has reached the wrong conclusions,” the attorneys said in a joint statement. “Hannah pleaded to provide more firearms training. She was denied and brushed aside. Hannah asked to be able to perform her armorer duties more for safety reasons. She was told by production to focus on props. Hannah asked Halls if they could use a plastic gun for the rehearsal scene and he said no, wanting a ‘real gun.’ Hannah asked to be called back into the church if Baldwin was going to use the gun at all and Halls failed to do that.”
“The tragedy of this is had Hannah just been called back into the church by Halls, she would have performed the inspection and prevented this tragedy,” the statement continued.
During a preliminary hearing, a judge will decide whether there is probable cause to move forward with a trial.
Should the case go to trial, a jury would have to decide under which definition of involuntary manslaughter Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were guilty. For the first count of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors must prove “underlying negligence,” while the second count, involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, “requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death,” the district attorney’s office said.
Both counts are fourth-degree felonies punishable by up to 18 months in jail, however, a firearm enhancement on the second charge could carry a mandatory sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors said.
Lisa Torraco, attorney for Halls, told ABC News he signed his plea agreement on Jan. 18 and that they both were “disappointed” that he was charged at all.
“We believe that criminally he should have been completely exonerated,” Torraco said following the district attorney’s announcement. “But we are happy with the resolution that she did propose, and that is the petty misdemeanor negligent use of a weapon.”
Hutchins, 42, was working as a cinematographer on the Western when she was shot and killed by the film’s star, Baldwin, during an accident while he was practicing using a Colt .45 revolver on set. Director Joel Souza was also injured in the shooting.
No charges will be filed in the shooting of Souza, the district attorney’s office said.
Hutchins’ family settled its wrongful death lawsuit against the film’s producers, including Baldwin and Rust Movie Productions, LLC, in October.
ABC News’ Alyssa Pone, Lissette Rodriguez and Vera Drymon contributed to this report.
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