As expected, Alec Baldwin was charged on Tuesday with involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust.”
Hannah Reed Gutierrez, the film’s armorer, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. Both are accused of acting with criminal negligence that resulted in Hutchins’ death.
Mary Carmack-Altwies, the elected prosecutor in Santa Fe, N.M., announced on Jan. 19 that she would file the charges. Baldwin and Reed Gutierrez each face up to 18 months in prison if convicted, plus a potential five-year enhancement for the use of a firearm.
Baldwin was preparing for a scene when his Colt .45 fired on Oct. 21, 2021, killing Hutchins and wounding the film’s director, Joel Souza. Baldwin has claimed that he did not pull the trigger, though an FBI analysis found that the gun was working normally.
The gun was supposed to contain only dummy rounds, but somehow a live round was mixed in. Gutierrez Reed loaded the gun. Prosecutors have alleged that each failed to take proper safety precautions, and that Hutchins would be alive if they had done their jobs correctly.
The prosecution spelled out its case in detail against both defendants in probable cause statements filed with the court on Tuesday.
“Baldwin drew the revolver from the holster, pointed it at Halyna Hutchins, and fired the weapon,” wrote Robert Shilling, an investigator with the First Judicial District Attorney’s office, in the affidavit.
The affidavit also accuses Baldwin of failing in his duties as a producer and actor on “Rust” to adequately oversee the production, and to ensure compliance with safety standards. Among other things, the affidavit accuses Baldwin of allowing the hiring of Gutierrez Reed, even though she was “inexperienced and unqualified.”
“The evidence and statements documented in this affidavit confirm many instances of extremely reckless acts or reckless failures to act by Baldwin in a 10-day period,” Shilling wrote. “Baldwin’s deviation from known standards, practice and protocol directly caused the fatal death of Hutchins.”
Attorneys for both defendants have asserted their innocence and predicted that they will be exonerated in court.
“This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice,” Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, said when the charges were announced. “We will fight these charges and we will win.”
David Halls, the first assistant director, has agreed to plead to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a weapon. Under the plea agreement, he will get a suspended sentence and serve six months of probation.
The prosecution affidavit accuses Gutierrez Reed of having “recklessly failed to ensure safety by allowing live ammunition on set.” The affidavit also faults her for allowing a “climate of recklessness” on set, failing to uphold safety and training standards, failing to properly address two accidental discharges of blank rounds prior to the fatal shooting, and for taking a job that she was not qualified to accept.
In a statement on Tuesday, Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys said the probable cause statement showed that the district attorney had “completely misunderstood the facts and has reached the wrong conclusions.”
“Hannah pleaded to provide more firearms training,” said the attorneys, Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion. “She was denied and brushed aside. Hannah asked to be able to perform her armorer duties more for safety reasons. She was told by production to focus on props. Hannah asked Halls if they could us a plastic gun for the rehearsal scene and he said no, wanting a ‘real gun.’ Hannah asked to be called back into the church if Baldwin was going to use the gun at all and Halls failed to do that.”
Her attorneys also noted that Halls will get a probationary sentence, while she faces at least five years in prison.
“We will fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty,” they said.
Gutierrez Reed and Baldwin must make a “first appearance” in New Mexico court — though that can be done remotely. They have a right to a preliminary hearing within 60 days, at which point the government must show enough evidence to take the case to trial.
Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed have blamed each other — as well as others — for the shooting. Gutierrez Reed has faulted Baldwin for failing to pay attention during her weapons training session. Baldwin meanwhile has filed a countersuit against Gutierrez Reed, in which his attorneys blame her for failing to detect the live round.
Involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico. To prove the charges, prosecutors must show that the defendants “acted with a willful disregard for the safety of others” and “should have known of the danger involved.”
The shooting has led to five civil suits, which could be put on hold now that criminal proceedings are underway.
Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins, agreed in October to settle his family’s suit against Baldwin and the “Rust” production, which would allow production to resume. But his case remains active and no settlement notice has yet been filed.
One of his attorneys, Randi McGinn, told a judge on Monday that the talks are still ongoing. McGinn was in court to oppose a motion to consolidate the Hutchins family case with a lawsuit filed by the set medic, Cherlyn Schaefer. McGinn argued that doing so would diminish the value of the Hutchins family’s suit.
“We are in the middle of very complicated settlement negotiations,” McGinn said. Consolidating the cases, she said, “would be disastrous for the progress of where we are in the process of our particular case.”
The judge denied the motion to consolidate, and also denied two defendants’ motions to dismiss Schaefer’s suit.