Alec Baldwin is to be charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halina Hutchins on the set of Rust.
The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reid, who was in charge of weapons on set, also faces the same charge, while assistant director David Halls signed a plea deal to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
Hutchins42, Died after a prop gun caught by BaldwinThe 64-year-old was fired in October 2021 while rehearsing for the western. Director Joel Souza was also injured in the incident on the set of Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Baldwin’s lawyer said the verdict “distorts the tragic death of Halina Hutchins and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice”, adding: “We will fight these charges, and we will win.”
Hutchins’ family has welcomed the charges, saying they hope the justice system will “work to hold lawbreakers accountable.”
“No one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice,” declared Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Cormack-Altois.
Special prosecutor Andrea Reb added: “If any one of these three people – Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reid or David Halls – had done their job, Halina Hitchens would be alive today. It’s as simple as that.”
Prosecutors were given additional funding of $317,750 (around £282,900) to investigate the high-profile case.
The decision on charges comes nearly three months after the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office received its final report on the shooting, following a lengthy investigation that also included the FBI.
Ms. Reb said, “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal negligence for safety on Rust film sets. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that meet our state’s standards for gun safety and public safety. “Doesn’t take the commitment seriously,” Ms. Reb said.
‘We will fight and win’
In his full statement, Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, said: “This verdict distorts the tragic death of Halina Hitchens and represents an appalling miscarriage of justice.
“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 he worked with, who assured him. That the gun is not live rounds. We will fight those charges. And we will win.”
A lawyer for Gutierrez-Reid said: “Hannah is, and always has been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident. But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter. These charges are the result of a very poor investigation and a misunderstanding.” Full facts.
“We intend to uncover the full truth and believe that a jury will acquit Hannah of wrongdoing.”
The first sign of a criminal reckoning
It’s been more than a year since the charges were announced after Halina Hutchins’ death, but for her family and friends, it represents a step toward accountability.
I have spoken to several people who worked on the film’s set, who at the time complained about what one individual described as a “complete disregard” for the welfare and safety of the cast and crew.
A number of civil suits and counter-suits have been filed since the blame and counter-blame game began. But this is the first sign of any criminal reckoning.
‘Conscious disregard for human life’
In a statement released by Hutchens’ family, attorney Brian J. Panish said: “We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and District Attorney for conducting a thorough investigation and determining that Halina Hutchens Charges of involuntary manslaughter are warranted for murder, with conscious disregard for human life.
“Our independent investigation also confirms the allegations. It is a comfort to the family that in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the allegations, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and We sincerely hope that the justice system will work. Protect the public and hold lawbreakers accountable.”
The announcement of the criminal charges comes three months after Baldwin and the Rust production company. A settlement was reached Hutchison’s family for an undisclosed sum following a wrongful-death lawsuit by her husband Matthew, and announced that production on the film would resume this year.
Several other cases have also been registered in connection with the firing.
what will happen now?
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reid will be “charged in the alternative” with two counts of manslaughter, meaning a jury will decide not only whether they are guilty, but under what definition of involuntary manslaughter they are guilty. Not guilty.
Prosecutors said the first charge can only be described as involuntary manslaughter, and must be based on gross negligence to prove it. Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine (about £4,040). The charge also includes a misdemeanor charge of reckless use of a firearm.
The second charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which requires proof that more than slight negligence was involved. It is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. However, prosecutors said the charge included an additional penalty — because it involved a firearm — that made the offense a mandatory five-year prison sentence.
Ms. Cormack Alvez and Ms. Reb will formally file charges before the end of January. After filing, each defendant will be issued a summons to appear in court for the first time, either in person or virtually.
After the first appearance, there will be a preliminary hearing before a judge, the district attorney and the special prosecutor will present their case. The judge will then decide if there is probable cause to proceed with the trial. Preliminary hearings are usually scheduled within 60 days of the charges being filed.
Prosecutors said no charges would be filed in connection with Souza’s injuries.
Confirming the details of Halls’ plea agreement, he said the terms include a suspended sentence and six months of probation.
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