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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

‘Rust’ armorer is sentenced to 18 months for involuntary manslaughter

A photo provided by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office shows the scene inside the church on the set of “Rust” after the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, was fatally shot in 2021. (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office via The New York Times)

By Julia Jacobs

The armorer on the film “Rust,” who loaded a live round into a revolver that went off on the set in 2021 and killed its cinematographer, was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

The sentence was the maximum that the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, could receive.

In her manslaughter trial last month, prosecutors argued that Gutierrez-Reed had been repeatedly reckless in her job of managing weapons and ammunition, directly causing the tragedy Oct. 21, 2021, when the gun that Alec Baldwin was practicing drawing from his shoulder holster fired a live bullet, killing the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge. His trial is scheduled for July, though a judge is currently weighing a motion from his defense to dismiss the indictment.

The sentencing by Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer came after prosecutors released summaries of calls that Gutierrez-Reed had made from jail, where she was sent after her conviction.

Prosecutors used the calls, during which Gutierrez-Reed calls the jurors in her case “idiots,” to argue that she should receive the highest possible sentence. The call summaries include Gutierrez-Reed saying that the judge was on a “power trip” and alleging, without evidence, that the judge was “getting paid off.”

Marlowe Sommer said during the hearing, at the 1st Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that giving Gutierrez-Reed less than the full sentence would be a “pass” that she did not deserve, citing the jail calls as evidence of a lack of remorse.

“You were the armorer, the one that stood between a safe weapon and a weapon that could kill someone,” the judge said. “You alone turned a safe weapon into a lethal weapon. But for you, Ms. Hutchins would be alive, a husband would have his partner, and a little boy would have his mother.”

Before the sentence was announced, Gutierrez-Reed, 26, pleaded for leniency, saying that when she took the “Rust” job she was “young and I was naive, but I took my job as seriously as I knew how to.”

“Despite not having proper time, resources and staffing when things got tough I just did my best to handle it,” Gutierrez-Reed said in court, reading from a statement, her wrists shackled. “The jury has found me in part at fault for this god-awful tragedy, but that doesn’t make me a monster; that makes me human.”

Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers have said that they will appeal her conviction and argued for leniency at the sentencing hearing, saying that the defendant had deep sadness over Hutchins’ death. They said that the overwhelming public attention on the case meant she had to endure “collateral consequences far harsher than most defendants ever must face,” citing the deluge of press coverage and death threats she has received.

The defense argued throughout the trial that Gutierrez-Reed was being scapegoated for a tragedy that occurred because the production did not afford her enough time to focus on weapons, something that several producers denied throughout the trial.

In court papers, prosecutors detailed jail calls in which Gutierrez-Reed contended that she “didn’t need to be shaking the dummies all the time,” referring to a safety measure in which weapons specialists shake inert cartridges, called dummy rounds, to hear a rattle inside, which indicates that the round cannot fire from the gun. On the day of the shooting, Gutierrez-Reed was supposed to have loaded six dummy rounds in Baldwin’s revolver, but one ended up being live.

“Every time a gun was loaded with ‘dummy’ rounds, it was a game of Russian roulette,” the lead prosecutor, Kari T. Morrissey, wrote in a court filing ahead of the sentencing.

In a separate call, prosecutors said, Gutierrez-Reed said she was trying to get her lawyer’s paralegal to reach out to Hutchins’ family about speaking on her behalf at the sentencing hearing. She also said she wants prosecutors to “put Alec Baldwin in jail.”

“It was my sincere hope during this process that there would be some moment when Ms. Gutierrez took responsibility, expressed some level of remorse that was genuine, and that moment has never come,” Morrissey said during the hearing.

Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers wrote in court papers that those jail calls, which they characterized as displaying “frustration at the system,” did not detract from her “heartbreak and extreme sadness over what occurred on the ‘Rust’ set.”

At the sentencing hearing, Gutierrez-Reed’s stepfather, Thell Reed, a prominent Hollywood armorer who she said had taught her how to do the job, gave testimony on her behalf, telling the judge that it would be unjust to give her prison time because others were in part responsible for the tragedy.

The armorer’s conviction was the first time anyone had been held criminally responsible at a jury trial for the death of Hutchins.

The focus of prosecutors has now largely shifted to Baldwin, who was indicted this year on an involuntary manslaughter charge. Prosecutors have accused him of negligently failing to make sure the gun he was handed that day was not loaded with live ammunition. He has vehemently denied responsibility, saying that he had been told the gun did not contain live ammunition and that he should be able to rely on professionals on set who were hired to oversee guns and safety.

During Gutierrez-Reed’s two-week trial, prosecutors said she should be held criminally responsible for Hutchins’ death because of a series of serious safety violations that they argued had primed the production for disaster. They accused her of bringing live rounds onto the set, of not properly checking the ammunition that she loaded into guns and gun belts, and of standing by as members of the production, including one of the stunt performers, handled weapons against safety protocols.

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