Alec Baldwin will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021.
“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,” New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced Thursday (via Deadline). “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”
“It happened because of more than mere negligence. They didn’t exercise due caution or circumspection,” Carmack-Altwies added in an interview with CNN. “[Baldwin] was the actor who pulled the trigger, and as a producer he had a duty to make sure the set was safe.”
Like Baldwin, Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is also charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Both could face up to $10,000 in fines and a total of over six years in jail. Dave Halls, the film’s first assistant director who handed Baldwin the loaded gun after declaring it safe, agreed to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon, and is expected to receive a suspended sentence and six months probation.
In a statement, Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas said the decision to charge the actor “distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. 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.”
On October 21st, 2021, Baldwin was practicing drawing an old-fashioned revolver while rehearsing on the set of the western film Rust near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The gun fired, hitting Hutchins in the stomach and director Joel Souza in the shoulder; Hutchins died after being transported to the hospital.
Baldwin claimed in a December 2021 interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was told the gun was empty. He recalled that Hutchins instructed him to point the gun towards her, and after asking her if he could cock it, she said yes: “I let go of the hammer and the gun goes off,” Baldwin said. “I never pulled the trigger.” Contrarily, an FBI report determined that the gun, a Pietta Colt .45, “could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger.”
Set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who loaded the gun, and assistant director Dave Halls, who handed it to Baldwin, both maintained they were unaware that a live round was in the gun at the time of the shooting. But as Consequence previously reported, both Gutierrez-Reed and Halls have histories of troubling safety mishaps, and members of the Rust camera crew had even staged a walkout protesting unsafe working conditions just hours before the shooting. Baldwin’s role as a producer on the film may have opened him up to liability for those working conditions apart from his handling of the weapon.
“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,” Andrea Reeb, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, said in a statement. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the Rust film set.”
Hutchins’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin in February 2022, but it was eventually settled. Then, last November, Baldwin filed a new suit accusing several crew members from Rust of negligence: Gutierrez-Reed, Dave Halls, crew member Sarah Zachry, and gun and ammunition supplier Seth Kenney.
Despite the legal fiascos, production on Rust is expected to resume this year.