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Alec Baldwin and prop armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed will both be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western drama Rust.
After a more than year-long investigation into the October 21 incident, Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced the charges Thursday.
The 42-year-old Hutchins died after a gun Baldwin was holding for a rehearsal fired a live round of ammunition into her chest, passing through and striking writer-director Joel Souza in the shoulder.
According to Vanity Fair, the movie’s assistant director, Dave Halls, who was cited in sheriff’s reports as the person who handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced to the crew it was a “cold gun,” signed a plea bargain with the DA for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, accepting a suspended sentence and six months of probation.
The DA appointed special prosecutor Andrea Reeb to oversee the case. “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,” Reeb said in a statement. “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.”
No charges will be filed for the wounding of Souza. District attorney spokesperson Heather Brewer explained that there is no statute in New Mexico for unintentional battery, unless the shooting leads to death.
According to the district attorney’s announcement: “The first charge can be referred to simply as involuntary manslaughter. For this charge to be proved there must be underlying negligence.
Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. This charge also includes the misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law.
“The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act,” the statement continues. “This charge requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. This is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty because a firearm was involved. The firearm enhancement makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.”
“There is a very clear process for pursuing justice in this case,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “We are committed to upholding the integrity of that process to ensure equal justice under the law.”
Vanity Fair reports last April, New Mexico’s workplace safety division fined the producers the maximum amount for unsafe handling of firearms.
In October, Baldwin announced that he and the other producers of Rust had reached a settlement agreement with Hutchins’ family, with her husband, Matt, joining the unfinished project as an executive producer. The Hutchins family lawyers recently declined to comment on the state of that settlement. Although Baldwin had said he hoped to resume filming as soon as this month, that has not yet happened.
Charges will be formally filed with New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court before the end of the month, according to Carmack-Altwies.
The defendants will be sent a summons and “required to make a ‘first appearance,’ a procedure that is often referred to in other jurisdictions as an arraignment,” the statement said. That may happen virtually, or the defendants could waive the appearance.
From there, a preliminary hearing will be held, most likely in the next two months, in which the prosecution presents the case to a judge, who will then rule on whether a trial should move forward.