Actor Alec Baldwin was charged Tuesday with manslaughter for showing a “reckless” disregard for security that led to the deadly shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western film ‘Rust’ in New Mexico in 2021, according to court documents.
Prosecutor Mary Carmack-Altwies brought the charges after months of speculation about whether she had evidence Baldwin demonstrated criminal negligence when a revolver he was testing with fired a live bullet, killing Hutchins.
Baldwin and shipowner Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were each charged with two counts of manslaughter.
The most serious charge, which can carry a sentence of five years in prison, would require prosecutors to convince a jury that Baldwin was not only negligent, but reckless in his use of a firearm.
A lawyer for Baldwin declined to comment. Hutchins’ lawyer said the prosecutor had “completely misrepresented the facts and has drawn the wrong conclusions.”
Baldwin’s case is notable in that there is hardly any precedent for an actor facing criminal charges for a death on set since the birth of Hollywood.
A probable cause statement accompanying the charges names Baldwin as the film’s actor and producer and says: “On the day of the shooting alone, evidence shows that no fewer than a dozen reckless acts, or omissions, occurred in the short time before lunch and the time of the shooting, and this does not include Baldwin’s reckless handling of the firearm.”
Baldwin had his finger on the trigger before the scene
The ’30 Rock’ actor has denied responsibility for the shooting, saying Hutchins told him to aim at the camera, that he cocked the revolver but never pulled the trigger.
He said it was the job of Gutierrez-Reed and other gun professionals to make sure it was unloaded, a position supported by many actors and the SAG-AFTRA union.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, photos and videos of the interior of the church on the filming set before the shooting show Baldwin with his finger inside the trigger guard and on the trigger while manipulating the hammer, drawing, aiming and holstering the revolver.
Firearms safety guidelines published by SAG-AFTRA instruct actors to “never put their finger on the trigger until they are ready to shoot.”
The revolver “functioned normally”
An FBI forensic test determined that the revolver “operated normally” and would not fire without pulling the trigger.
Prosecutors could have a hard time convincing a jury that Baldwin is criminally liable because he was assured the gun was safe to handle before it fired a loaded cartridge, legal experts say.
Baldwin did not attend firearms training sessions and on the day of the shooting did not require at least two firearm safety checks between himself and the gunsmith, something he said was standard protocol in interviews with the media. communication and the police, according to prosecutors.
Gutiérrez-Reed has said that he verified that the cartridges he loaded into the weapon were blanks before turning it over to the first assistant director, Dave Halls. Halls handed it over to Baldwin, telling him it was a “cold gun,” meaning it contained no explosive charge, according to police.
Halls has signed a misdemeanor plea agreement and is expected to cooperate with the prosecution.
For celebrity reputation manager Eric Schiffer, Baldwin’s repeated pleas of innocence smacked of celebrity elitism and may have prompted Carmack-Altwies to accuse him.
“Baldwin believes he is innocent and that the guns go off by magic, despite physics and the FBI saying otherwise, and that has led to public pressure on prosecutors,” Schiffer said.
Gutierrez-Reed has repeatedly claimed that improper firearms training on the set of the low-budget movie contributed to the shooting, a stance echoed in charging documents.
On December 7, he testified before the New Mexico Workplace Safety Agency (OSHA) that Baldwin’s lack of knowledge and “poor form” when using a revolver could have caused the shot that killed Hutchins.
He said Baldwin’s formation was rushed, flouted security protocols and consisted largely of firing salutes. The gunsmith said Baldwin was distracted by texting and FaceTime calls with family and she wasn’t sure he was “withholding” the instruction.
“Hannah pleaded for more firearms training. She was denied and pushed aside,” her attorney Jason Bowles said, vowing to fight the charges.