By Naledi Ushe and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY
Alec Baldwin will be charged in the 2021 shooting death of a cinematographer during a rehearsal on the New Mexico set of his Western movie “ Rust ,” the Santa Fe, New Mexico, district attorney announced Thursday.
Baldwin, 64, who was holding the gun at the time it fired , and “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and Special Prosecutor Andrea Reeb said in a news release.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, died shortly after being wounded by a gunshot while setting up a scene at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021. Baldwin was pointing a prop pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding the film’s director, Joel Souza.
Assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin the gun that day , signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, according to the DA’s office. He has a suspended sentence and six months probation.
No charges will be filed in the shooting of Souza.
“This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice,” Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas said in a statement Thursday to ABC News and Entertainment Weekly . “Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set. 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.”
Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys Jason Bowles and Todd J. Bullion said in a statement provided to USA TODAY, “Hannah is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident. But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter.
“These charges are the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts. We intend to bring the full truth to light and believe Hannah will be exonerated of wrongdoing by a jury,” the statement concludes.
USA TODAY has reached out to lawyers for Baldwin and Halls for comment.
Attorneys for the Hutchins family – widower Matthew Hutchins and son Andros – thanked the Santa Fe sheriff and the district attorney for the charges in a statement shared with USA TODAY, calling them “warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life.”
“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,” Hutchins’ attorney Brian J. Panish said in a statement.
In announcing the charges, Carmack-Altwies said, “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. On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”
Andrea Reeb, special prosecutor appointed by the DA to the case, added: “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.
“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,” Reeb added.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, who led the initial investigation into Hutchins’ death, described “a degree of neglect” on the film set. But he left decisions about potential criminal charges to prosecutors after delivering the results of a yearlong investigation in October. That report did not specify how live ammunition wound up on the film set.
Baldwin – known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” – has described the killing of Hutchins as a “tragic accident.”
Is Baldwin going to prison?
Carmack-Altwies and Reeb said they’ll file charges with New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court by the end of the month. After that, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be formally arraigned and the judge will decide if the case moves forward to trial.
According to the DA’s office, the two charges of involuntary manslaughter are differentiated: one determines if there was underlying negligence and the other requires that there was more than simple negligence in Hutchins’ death.
Both charges are fourth-degree felonies, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The latter charge also includes a firearm enhancement penalty, which is punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.
Alec Baldwin sued others for handling of the loaded gun
Baldwin has sought to clear his name by suing people involved in handling and supplying the loaded gun that was handed to him on set. Baldwin, also a co-producer on “Rust,” said he was told the gun was safe.
In his lawsuit, Baldwin said that while working on camera angles with Hutchins during rehearsal for a scene, he pointed the gun in her direction at her instruction, and pulled back and released the hammer of the gun, which discharged.
New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau has levied the maximum fine against Rust Movie Productions, based on a scathing narrative of safety failures, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires of blank ammunition on set prior to the fatal shooting.
Rust Movie Productions continues to challenge the basis of a $137,000 fine by regulators who say production managers on the set failed to follow standard industry protocols for firearms safety.
Investigators initially found 500 rounds of ammunition at the movie set on the outskirts of Santa Fe – a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and what appeared to be live rounds. Industry experts have said live rounds should never be on set.
The armorer who oversaw firearms on the set, Gutierrez-Reed, has been the subject of much of the scrutiny in the case, along with an independent ammunition supplier. An attorney for Gutierrez-Reed has said the armorer did not put a live round in the gun that killed Hutchins, and believes she was the victim of sabotage. Authorities said they’ve found no evidence of that.
Halyna Hutchins’ death was ruled an accident
New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator determined the shooting was an accident following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports.
In April 2022, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department released a trove of files including lapel camera video of the mortally wounded Hutchins slipping in and out of consciousness as an evacuation helicopter arrived. Witness interrogations, email threads, text conversations, inventories of ammunition and hundreds of photographs rounded out that collection of evidence.
Could the gun held by Alec Baldwin have fired without pulling the trigger?
Guns can be unintentionally discharged because of mechanical malfunction or insufficient firearm training and handling, but is that what happened?
This is a key investigative question . Some gun experts say guns can’t fire on their own, and the FBI seemed to back them up.
An FBI analysis released in August said three accidental-discharge tests were performed to determine if the gun could have fired without a trigger being pulled. Each test concluded the gun would not have fired “without a pull of the trigger.”
But the report also says the gun was in poor condition and its internal components were not intact or functional during the testing.
“When an accidental discharge examination is performed, it may not be possible to recreate or duplicate all of the circumstances which led to the discharge of a firearm without a pull of the trigger,” the report said.
Last fall, Hutchins’ family settled a lawsuit against producers and agreed to restart filming with Matthew’s involvement as executive producer. It is unclear with the new charges whether the film will resume.
“Rust” was beset by disputes from the start of filming in 2021. Seven crew members walked off the set just hours before the fatal shooting amid discord over working conditions.
Hutchins’ death has influenced negotiations over safety provisions in film crew union contracts with Hollywood producers and spurred other filmmakers to choose computer-generated imagery of gunfire rather than real weapons with blank ammunition to minimize risks.
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Main Photo: New Mexico prosecutors announced Thursday that Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins while filming “Rust” on Oct. 21, 2021. ANGELA WEISS, AFP via Getty Images
Alec Baldwin to be charged with involuntary manslaughter in Halyna Hutchins ‘Rust’ shooting – NewsBreak