‘Rust’ to complete and still star Alec Baldwin as he faces involuntary manslaughter charges in crew member’s death, lawyer says



CNN

Alec Baldwin, who will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of a crew member during a “Rust” filming rehearsal, will continue to star, a lawyer for the production told CNN on Friday.

As filming continues, operations will include “security monitors and union crew members on location and will prevent any use of working weapons or ammunition,” said Melina Spadone, an attorney for Rust Movie Productions.

Spadone’s statements come a day after prosecutors announced plans to charge Baldwin and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, in the October 2021 shooting death of Halyna Hutchins at a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Hutchins, the film’s director of photography, was hit and killed by live ammunition Baldwin fired from a prop gun, and director Joel Souza was wounded in the right shoulder. Souza will continue to direct the film as production moves forward, Spadone said.

Baldwin, who is also a producer on the film, did not respond to reporters’ requests for comment on the allegations when he entered his Manhattan home on Friday. A source close to Baldwin told CNN on Friday that he plans to complete the film.

Although the shooting death was ruled an accident by New Mexico’s chief investigator, prosecutors believe a crime was committed.

“Just because it’s an accident doesn’t mean it’s not criminal,” First District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said Thursday as she announced the indictment. “Our involuntary manslaughter law covers accidental killings.”

Carmack-Altwies said she will charge Baldwin and the film’s armorer with involuntary manslaughter, accusing them of failing to perform safety procedures that could have prevented the accident.

Formal charges are expected to be filed before the end of the month, Carmack-Altwies told CNN.

“Every person who handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they’re going to handle that gun, point it at somebody and pull the trigger, that it’s not going to fire a projectile and kill somebody,” Carmack-Altwies said.

Still, prosecutors face enormous challenges trying to try a case revolving around a prominent Hollywood figure beyond the legal thresholds they must prove to obtain a conviction.

Baldwin has been a major film, Broadway and TV star for decades, winning Emmys for TV’s “30 Rock” and an Academy Award nomination for 2003’s “The Cooler.”

This photo from the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office shows the scene of the shooting on October 21, 2021.

The two trials Baldwin and the film’s gunman could face would last weeks to a month and would require expert testimony, Carmack-Altwies said.

The district attorney requested $635,000 in “emergency” funds “to prosecute such a high-profile case,” she wrote to state officials last August.

“I need funding for a lawyer, investigator, media liaison, barrister, expert witnesses and general legal costs,” she said.

And even before any trial could be held, each defendant will participate in a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is probable cause for the trial.

“These hearings will take weeks to complete and will happen fairly quickly once charges have been filed,” Carmack-Altwies explained.

But the case will be difficult to prosecute given that it’s unclear how live performances came to be filmed, according to CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, adding that experts differ on the liability of cast and crew members.

“Remember, this is a criminal case. You need all 12 jurors to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So I’m not saying there’s no chance here, but this is a really difficult case for the prosecution,” Honig said.

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Santa Fe District Attorney

Santa Fe DA explains decision to charge Alec Baldwin in ‘Rust’ shooting

Baldwin is charged both as the person accused of firing the gun and as the producer of the film, Carmack-Altwies said, arguing that Baldwin, as a producer, had a responsibility to make sure the set was safe.

Gutierrez Reed, the film’s armorer who loaded the prop gun, is also responsible for failing to ensure the safety of the gun, prosecutors say. Her lawyer has said she thought the shots were blanks.

“Nobody was checking them or at least they weren’t checking them consistently,” Carmack-Altwies said. “And then they somehow got loaded into a gun that was handed to Alec Baldwin. He didn’t check. He didn’t do any of the things he was supposed to do to make sure he was safe or anyone around him was safe. And then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and he pulled the trigger.”

Baldwin has maintained that he never pulled the trigger and was unaware that the gun contained bullets.

Gutierrez Reed and Baldwin will both face two counts of involuntary manslaughter, but each count carries different penalty levels, Carmack-Altwies said in announcing the charges.

A jury would decide which charge would be most appropriate, and if convicted, they would only face one count, prosecutors said.

A conviction for both defendants carries up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. But a charge carries an additional firearms enhancement — because a gun was involved — and would carry a mandatory sentence of five years in prison, Carmack-Altwies said.

Regarding the charges, Gutierrez Reed’s attorney Jason Bowles said Thursday, “We’re waiting on the charges but they’re completely wrong about Hannah — we expect her to be found not guilty by a jury and that she did not commit murder. She’s been emotional about the tragedy but has committed no crime.”

Meanwhile, Baldwin’s lawyer Luke Nikas said the actor was “blindsided” by the allegations.

“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the film set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him that the gun had no bullets.

When prosecutors announced the charges Thursday, Hutchins’ family praised their decision.

“It is a comfort to the family that no one in New Mexico is above the law,” the family said in a statement released by attorney Brian J. Panish.

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