• Reuters

Alec Baldwin again Charged with Manslaughter in ‘Rust’ Movie-set Shooting

REUTERS/David ‘Dee’ Delgado
Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home, as he will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust”, in New York, U.S., January 31, 2023.

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) – Alec Baldwin on Friday was charged again with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust,” reinstating a criminal case against the actor months after previous charges were dropped.

Friday’s indictment by a New Mexico grand jury followed an independent forensic test concluding that Baldwin, 65, would have had to pull the trigger of a revolver he was using in a rehearsal for it to fire the live round that struck Hutchins in the chest and killed her.

The finding was the same as a previous FBI test on the firearm.

Baldwin’s attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, issued a statement on Friday on behalf of their client saying, “We look forward to our day in court.”

When prosecutors announced their intention in October to bring the case to a grand jury, the defense lawyers called the situation a “terrible tragedy” that “has been turned into this misguided prosecution.”

Baldwin, the Emmy-winning performer who starred in the hit NBC television comedy “30 Rock,” has denied pulling the trigger and said he was not responsible for Hutchins’ death in the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting.

The movie’s director, Joel Souza, was struck and wounded in the shoulder by the same bullet that killed Hutchins during production of the film on a set outside Santa Fe, the state capital.

According to a police report, David Halls, the assistant director who handed the gun to Baldwin, told the actor the weapon was “cold,” an industry term meaning it did not contain live ammunition or even blank rounds. Halls told police he was unaware the gun was loaded.

Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey had said she would seek new charges against Baldwin if the independent test showed the reproduction long Colt .45 revolver was in “working condition.”

Prosecutors previously dismissed charges against Baldwin based on evidence the hammer of the revolver might been modified, allowing it to fire without the trigger being pulled.

TWO CRIMINAL THEORIES

The single-page indictment filed with the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe charges Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter under two alternative legal definitions – causing a death by “negligent use of a firearm” and by acting “without due caution or circumspection.”

Should the case go to trial, it would be up to a jury to decide whether either theory was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Involuntary manslaughter is classified in New Mexico as a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison.

Baldwin was similarly charged with involuntary manslaughter in January via a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors. Those charges were dismissed in April.

A grand jury indictment allows prosecutors to avoid the additional legal step of convincing a judge during an evidentiary hearing that there is probable cause to proceed to trial.

No arraignment was immediately scheduled in the renewed case. Baldwin could choose to enter a not guilty plea without appearing for an arraignment.

The movie’s chief armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, who handled the gun before Halls, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. She faces a 2024 trial. Halls signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Among witnesses who testified before the grand jury were Alexandra Hancock, lead detective on the case for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, and Lane Luper, a cameraman who walked off the “Rust” set shortly before the shooting over complaints about working conditions and safety.

“Our clients have always sought the truth about what happened on the day that Halyna Hutchins was tragically shot and killed,” attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing Hutchins’ parents, Olga Solovey and Anatolii Androsovych, said in a statement on Friday.

“They continue to seek the truth in our civil lawsuit for them, and they also would like there to be accountability in the criminal justice system,” Allred added.

Baldwin and other “Rust” producers reached a settlement in October 2022 of wrongful death claims brought by Hutchins’ family. Production of the film resumed last April in Montana. No release date for the film has been set.