Actor Alec Baldwin charged with involuntary manslaughter again in connection with Rust shooting

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A grand jury indicted Alec Baldwin on an involuntary manslaughter charge Friday in a 2021 fatal shooting during a rehearsal on a movie set in New Mexico, reviving a dormant case against the actor.

Special prosecutors brought the case before a grand jury in Santa Fe this week, months after receiving a new analysis of the gun that was used in the shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. 

“We look forward to our day in court,” Baldwin’s lawyers Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro wrote in a statement to CBC News.

Special prosecutors declined to answer questions after spending about a day and a half presenting their case to the grand jury, according to the Associated Press.

While the proceeding is shrouded in secrecy, two of the witnesses seen at the courthouse included crew members — one who was present when the fatal shot was fired and another who had walked off the set the day before due to safety concerns.

A woman wearing a dark v-neck rests her cheek on her hand.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, seen in this undated photo received by Reuters in October 2021, was killed in the shooting. (Swen Studios/Reuters)

Baldwin denied pulling trigger

Baldwin, lead actor and co-producer on the Western movie Rust, was pointing a gun at cinematographer Hutchins during a rehearsal on the set outside Santa Fe in October 2021 when the gun went off. The shot killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has said he pulled back the hammer, but not the trigger, and the gun fired.

The charge has again put Baldwin in legal trouble and created the possibility of prison time for an actor who has been a TV and movie mainstay for nearly 40 years, with roles in the blockbuster The Hunt for Red October, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and the sitcom 30 Rock.

The indictment provides prosecutors with two alternative standards for pursuing an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin in the death of Hutchins. One would be based on negligent use of a firearm, and the other alleges felony misconduct “with the total disregard or indifference for the safety of others.”

WATCH | Alec Baldwin says in ABC interview he didn’t pull trigger in fatal shooting: 

Alec Baldwin says he didn’t pull trigger on prop gun in ABC interview

In an interview with ABC News, actor Alec Baldwin says he didn’t pull the trigger on the prop gun he was holding when it fired and killed a cinematographer on the film set of Rust in October.

Judges recently agreed to put on hold several civil lawsuits seeking compensation from Baldwin and producers of Rust after prosecutors said they would present their case to a grand jury. Plaintiffs in those suits include members of the film crew.

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of the West Coast Trial Lawyers firm in Los Angeles, pointed to previous missteps by prosecutors, saying they will need to do more than present ballistics evidence to make a case that Baldwin had a broader responsibility and legal duty when it came to handling the gun on the set.

Special prosecutors dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin in April, saying they were informed the gun might have been modified before the shooting and malfunctioned. They later pivoted and began weighing whether to refile a charge against Baldwin after receiving a new analysis of the gun.

The analysis from experts in ballistics and forensic testing relied on replacement parts to reassemble the gun fired by Baldwin, after parts of the pistol were broken during testing by the FBI. The report examined the gun and markings it left on a spent cartridge to conclude that the trigger had to have been pulled or depressed.

The analysis led by Lucien Haag of Forensic Science Services in Arizona stated that although Baldwin repeatedly denied pulling the trigger, “given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver.”

Weapons supervisor’s trial set to begin next month

The weapons supervisor on the movie set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering in the case. Her trial is scheduled to begin in February.

Rust assistant director and safety coordinator David Halls pleaded no contest to unsafe handling of a firearm last March and received a suspended sentence of six months of probation. He agreed to co-operate in the investigation of the shooting.

An earlier FBI report on the agency’s analysis of the gun found that, as is common with firearms of that design, it could go off without pulling the trigger if force was applied to an uncocked hammer, such as by dropping the weapon.

The only way the testers could get it to fire was by striking the gun with a mallet while the hammer was down and resting on the cartridge, or by pulling the trigger while it was fully cocked. The gun eventually broke during testing.

The 2021 shooting resulted in a series of civil lawsuits, including wrongful death claims filed by members of Hutchins’ family, centred on accusations that the defendants were lax with safety standards. Baldwin and other defendants have disputed those allegations.

Production company paid $100K fine

Women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing Hutchins’ parents, Olga Solovey and Anatolii Androsovych, her sister, Svetlana Zemko, and Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell in a civil suit, told CBC News in a statement that her clients have always sought the truth about what happened on the day that Hutchins was fatally shot.

“They continue to seek the truth in our civil lawsuit for them and they also would like there to be accountability in the criminal justice system.”

“We are looking forward to the criminal trial which will determine if he should be convicted for the untimely death of Halyna,” the statement read.

The Rust Movie Productions company has paid a $100,000 US fine to state workplace safety regulators after a scathing narrative of failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting.

The filming of Rust resumed last year in Montana, under an agreement with the cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, that made him an executive producer.

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