Alec Baldwin accused of ‘extremely reckless acts’ in ‘Rust’ killing
Prosecutors filed charges against Alec Baldwin, who shot a cinematographer on the set with a gun that was not supposed to have real ammunition.
By JULIA JACOBS
Actor Alec Baldwin and the armorer on the film “Rust” were charged earlier this week with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of the movie’s cinematographer, according to court papers, filed in the 1st Judicial District Court in New Mexico, in which prosecutors accused them of failing to follow standard film safety protocols on set.
In a statement of probable cause against Baldwin filed in the court, Robert Shilling, a special investigator for the district attorney’s office, outlined the ways prosecutors claim that the actor had behaved negligently on set. They accused him of not receiving sufficient training on firearms, of failing to deal with safety complaints on set, of “putting his finger on the trigger of a real firearm when a replica or rubber gun should have been used” and of pointing the firearm at the film’s cinematographer and director.
“This reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol directly caused the fatal shooting,” Shilling wrote.
The prosecutors in the case announced Jan. 19 that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and Baldwin would face criminal charges in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. They will not be arrested, prosecutors said, unless they do not cooperate with their scheduled court hearings.
Prosecutors accused Gutierrez-Reed of “not checking the rounds she was loading into the firearms,” “allowing live rounds on scene” and “allowing ammunition to not be secured.” They also faulted her for failing to stay with the firearm, for allowing Baldwin to point the firearm at Hutchins, and for failing to make sure “a rubber or replica gun” was used in rehearsal. They said that Gutierrez-Reed did not have enough experience or training to be an armorer on a film the size of “Rust,” adding that she “took an armorer position she was not qualified to accept.”
A lawyer for Baldwin, Luke Nikas, declined to comment Tuesday but said in recent weeks that the decision to charge his client “distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice,” asserting that they would fight the charges and win.
A lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed, Jason Bowles, said Tuesday that the prosecutors’ statements showed that they had “completely misunderstood the facts” and had “reached the wrong conclusions.” Bowles laid some of the blame at the feet of Dave Halls, the movie’s first assistant director, who agreed to a plea deal on a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
“The tragedy of this is had Hannah just been called back into the church by Halls, she would have performed the inspection and prevented this tragedy,” Bowles said. “We will fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty.”
Baldwin has long maintained that he is not responsible for the shooting that killed Hutchins and wounded the movie’s director, Joel Souza.
“Someone is culpable for chambering the live round that led to this horrific tragedy, and it is someone other than Baldwin,” his lawyer wrote last year in an arbitration demand.
Baldwin has said that he was told the gun was “cold,” meaning it should have contained no live rounds, and added that he was following the direction of Hutchins in where to point the gun. He has said that he did not pull the trigger, and that the gun discharged after he pulled the hammer back and released it; prosecutors said an FBI analysis concluded that the trigger had to have been pulled.
The fatal shooting of Hutchins on Oct. 21, 2021, occurred when the crew was setting up a tight shot of Baldwin drawing an old-fashioned revolver from his holster before a gunfight. He has said that Hutchins, who was standing next to the camera, was directing the position of the gun.
The court papers filed by prosecutors lay out what they describe as a series of negligent acts by Baldwin. They accused him of failing to attend mandatory firearms safety training before filming began and said that during a later training session with Gutierrez-Reed, he had been distracted because he was on the phone with his family.
“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.
The prosecutors’ statements that Baldwin had a responsibility as an actor to check the gun that he was handed on set that day, or ensure that someone had, started a debate in the film and television industries about what safety responsibilities actors have.
SAG-AFTRA, the union representing film, television and radio workers, released a statement saying “an actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert.” Baldwin has also said that checking the gun is the responsibility of those hired to manage weapons on set.
Prosecutors said that Baldwin had special responsibilities as a producer of the film; they did not file charges against the other producers. They claimed that after most of the camera crew quit the film the day before the shooting, partly over concerns about safety and lodging, Baldwin had “failed to act to address any safety or continuity concerns with the new crew, causing a reckless situation to occur on the day of the shooting.”
Baldwin’s lawyers have said in previous filings that as a producer, Baldwin was involved in creative matters but that others had authority over hiring and budgets.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed face charges of involuntary manslaughter. If the case goes to trial and jurors decide to convict either of the defendants, they will decide which of two definitions of involuntary manslaughter applies. The lesser charge carries a prison sentence of up to 18 months, while the more serious charge includes a mandatory five-year prison sentence because of what the prosecutors called a “firearm enhancement.”
“In New Mexico, no one is above the law and justice will be served,” Mary Carmack-Altwies, the Santa Fe County district attorney, said in a statement Tuesday.
A judge in Santa Fe will determine whether there is probable cause to proceed with the criminal charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed in what is called a preliminary hearing.