Alec Baldwin, armorer charged with involuntary manslaughter in shooting on "Rust" set

Alec Baldwin, armorer charged with involuntary manslaughter in shooting on "Rust" set
AP Photo/John Minchillo

More than a year after a gun held by actor Alec Baldwin discharged on the set of the movie “Rust” in New Mexico, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, prosecutors in Santa Fe, New Mexico have decided to charge Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Additionally, Santa Fe First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb announced that “Rust” first assistant director David Halls has agreed to plead guilty to charges of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Conviction on the involuntary manslaughter charge could result in an 18-month sentence, but Carmack-Altweis is also going for a firearm enhancement that could add on a mandatory five years behind bars upon conviction.

Baldwin and the movie’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, each will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. One of the counts is for involuntary manslaughter, in which prosecutors will have to prove there is underlying negligence, prosecutors said. This is a fourth-degree felony that carries a sentence of up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The second charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, a more severe charge which requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death, prosecutors said. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, which adds a mandatory penalty of five years in jail.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be charged under a standard called “charged in the alternative.” If the case ends up going to trial, a jury will determine which of the two charges they’re guilty of.

That’s a pretty big “if”, honestly. Halls received six months probation and a suspended sentence after taking the plea deal offered by prosecutors, and while Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed might not get as sweet an offer as that one, I’m sure that some deal will be dangled before a jury is seated. For the moment, however, both defendants sound like they’re planning on defending themselves.

The prosecutors’ decision is “a terrible miscarriage of justice,” said Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s attorney. “Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win.”

Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys called it a “very flawed investigation” in a statement Thursday.

“Hannah is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident. But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter,” they said.

Baldwin has maintained that he didn’t pull the trigger of the single-action revolver, which had been loaded with live rounds instead of dummy ammunition. Instead, he says the gun fired on his own; something the FBI was unable to replicate when it examined and tested the firearm.

Accidental discharge testing determined that the firearm used in the shooting — a .45 Colt (.45 Long Colt) caliber F.lli Pietta single-action revolver — could not have fired without the trigger being pulled, the FBI report shows.

With the hammer in the quarter- and half-cock positions, the gun “could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger,” the report stated.

With the hammer fully cocked, the gun “could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger while the working internal components were intact and functional,” the report stated.

With the hammer de-cocked on a loaded chamber, the gun was able to detonate a primer “without a pull of the trigger when the hammer was struck directly,” which is normal for this type of revolver, the report stated.

On the day of the shooting, Hall picked up the revolver and handed it to Gutierrez-Reed, who in turn gave it to Baldwin. None of the three apparently checked to ensure that the gun contained dummy rounds instead of live ammunition, but Baldwin has maintained that doing so wouldn’t be standard procedure for an actor. Instead, he and his attorneys have argued that making sure the gun was safe was the responsibility of crew members like Hall and Gutierrez-Reed.

A lawsuit filed against Baldwin and other “Rust” producers by Hutchins family was settled last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the criminal charges are also resolved via a plea deal before a trial takes place. So far Baldwin’s been eager to argue his case in the court of public opinion but we’ll see if that bravado lasts when his stage is an actual courtroom instead.