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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Alec Baldwin pleads not guilty to involuntary manslaughter

By Julia Jacobs

Alec Baldwin pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter earlier this week, following a grand jury indictment that revived the criminal case against him for the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the film “Rust” in 2021.

From the beginning, Baldwin has denied responsibility for the death of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, saying that he had no reason to believe there were live rounds on set that day and that there were crew members responsible for ensuring the gun was safe.

The prosecution of the actor, 65, has seen some dramatic twists over the past year: The original criminal case, brought by the local district attorney’s office, fell apart. After the initial charge was dismissed last year by a new team of special prosecutors, Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis, they decided to bring the case to a grand jury in New Mexico.

Baldwin’s lawyers have called the prosecution “misguided” and, in a court filing, pushed for urgency in the court proceedings to “minimize public vilification and suspicion” against Baldwin and “avoid the hazards of proving his innocence that often arise after lengthy delays in prosecution.”

Baldwin entered the not guilty plea Wednesday in a court filing in which he also waived a virtual court appearance that had been scheduled for Thursday. Baldwin’s conditions of release included typical constraints including restrictions on possessing weapons and avoiding contact with anyone who might testify in the case, but some were more novel: The actor can have contact with potential witnesses only if they are discussing their involvement in the “Rust” movie, which the production finished filming last year.

After Baldwin was charged for the first time one year ago, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the union representing film, television and radio workers, came to his defense, rebutting the original prosecution team’s contention that as an actor he was responsible for ensuring that the gun he was using on the set was safe to handle.

The union released a new statement after the latest indictment, saying that the idea an actor should be expected to inspect a firearm is an “incorrect assessment of the actual duties of an actor on set” and pointing to a set of industry guidelines called Safety Bulletin No. 1.

“Performers train to perform, and they are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use,” the union’s statement said. “The industry assigns that responsibility to qualified professionals who oversee their use and handling in every aspect.”

Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing Hutchins’ parents and sister in a civil case, pushed back on the union’s statement, saying, “The notion that an actor is not responsible if that actor holds a gun, points it at someone on a movie set and discharges the weapon flies in the face of common sense and the law.”

The crew member who was in charge of guns and ammunition on set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is scheduled to stand trial on an involuntary manslaughter charge in February.

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