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Alec Baldwin will be charged with manslaughter in the “Rust” Killing

Alec Baldwin will be charged with manslaughter in the “Rust” Killing

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For more than a year, actor Alec Baldwin has been trying to defend himself against the suggestion that he was responsible for the fatal shooting of a cameraman on the set of “Rust,” a low-budget western he was shooting on the outskirts of Santa Claus. Fe, NM

He told detectives they assured him the gun he was practicing with that day did not contain live ammunition, sat down for an extensive television interview, claimed compensation from property liability in this case and after judge members of the film’s crewclaiming they were responsible for handing him a loaded gun.

But on Thursday, prosecutors said they would charge him with two counts of manslaughter in the cinematographer’s slaying. Halina Hutchins42, saying they believed he had a duty to ensure the revolver was safe to handle.

“We’re trying to make it absolutely clear that everyone is equal under the law, including A-list actors like Alec Baldwin,” Andrea Rieb, a special prosecutor appointed by the Santa Fe County district attorney to help handle the case, said in an interview . “And we also want to make sure the safety of the film industry is addressed and things like this don’t happen again.”

The film’s gunman, Hannah Gutierrez-Reid, who loaded the gun that day and was in charge of the weapons on set, will also be charged with two counts of manslaughter. The film’s first assistant director, Dave Halls, who handed Mr. Baldwin the gun, agreed to a plea deal on a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

The criminal charges facing Mr Baldwin came as a surprise to many in the film industry and were strongly contested by his legal team. Mr Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, said the prosecution’s decision “distorts the tragic death of Halina Hutchins and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice”.

“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the set,” Mr. Nikas said in a statement Thursday. “He trusted the professionals he worked with, who assured him that the gun had no live ammunition.We will fight these charges and win.

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing film, television and radio workers, said in a statement that Ms. Hutchins’ death was a “preventable” tragedy but that it was not “a dereliction of duty or a criminal act by anyone performer.”

“The prosecutor’s contention that the actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a manufacturing site is erroneous and uninformed,” the union said. “An actor’s job is not to be an expert on firearms or weapons.”

Mr. Baldwin, 64, has been a household name for decades as a Hollywood leading man, a TV star who played Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock” and former President Donald J. Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” co-host of The Oscars and the voice of the radio broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic.

He has long been the subject of attention for his off-screen behavior, which includes run-ins with paparazzi, an arrest for riding his bicycle in the wrong direction on Fifth Avenue, an arrest in 2018 over a parking space dispute and feuds waged on social media.

But he had never faced a crisis like the one he was facing now.

Since the shooting, Mr. Baldwin has been trying to strike a delicate balance: publicly declaring his innocence in an effort to preserve his reputation and career while trying to stay out of legal jeopardy.

Appears on national television, where he said he was told the gun had no live rounds in it, adding that he was only following directions when pointing it at the operator. “Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who it is, but I know it’s not me,” he said in the interview.

Privately, according to a police report, he complained to a detective in the fall that “if your name gets attached to something, nobody wants to work with you anymore — nobody.”

After news of the allegations spread, about two dozen reporters and photographers camped out on the sidewalk outside his Manhattan apartment, to the dismay of neighbors.

If the jury finds either Mr. Baldwin or Ms. Gutierrez-Reid guilty, it will choose between the two manslaughter charges. The more serious includes a firearms enhancement and a mandatory sentence of five years; the other charge carries a sentence of up to 18 months.

The criminal charges against Mr. Baldwin are sure to raise again questions about set safety and who is responsible. The Santa Fe County District Attorney, Mary Carmack-Althuis, said in an interview that Mr. Baldwin had a duty to ensure that the gun and ammunition were properly inspected and that he should never have pointed it at anyone. “You shouldn’t point a gun at someone you don’t want to shoot,” she said. “This applies to basic safety standards.”

Ms. Gutierrez-Reid, the gunsmith who was in charge of the guns on the set and loaded the gun that day, told investigators that she checked the gun and all six rounds she loaded, but also noted: “I wish I had checked it out more.”

One of her lawyers, Jason Bowles, said his client was not responsible for manslaughter, calling the investigation into the case “flawed.”

The October 21, 2021 shooting, which also injured the film’s director Joel Souza, took place in a small set designed to look like a church. The film’s first assistant director, Mr Halls, 63. took the revolver from a gray, two-story board placed outside the church by Ms. Gutierrez-Reid, 25, and handed it to Mr. Baldwin, calling out “cool gun” to indicate that it contained no live ammunition, according to court documents.

A lawyer for Mr. Halls, Lisa Toraco, said in a statement that the plea agreement allowed him to “put this matter behind him and allow the focus of this tragedy to be on the victims of the shooting, their families, and changing the industry , so this type of accident will never happen again.”

Prosecutors said they decided it was part of film industry standards for actors to ensure the weapons they use on set are safe for them, saying they interviewed several actors who spoke about the importance of those protocols . Mr. Baldwin has dismissed the idea in the past, saying that in his experience on set it was not a practice for actors to check their own weapons.

Ms. Reeb, the special prosecutor who is also a Republican member of the New Mexico Legislature, said Ms. Gutierrez-Reid was also responsible for making sure the weapons on set did not contain live ammunition, saying in an interview, that she must have removed each round from the gun and waved it in front of the actor, a practice that helped confirm that the rounds were dummies, inert cartridges used to resemble real ammunition in a film.

After the shooting, the authorities found five more live rounds on the set, including on top of the trolley where props were stored and in the belt Mr Baldwin wore as part of the costume. The investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office did not answer a key question — how live ammunition ended up on set — and Ms. Reeb said that aspect of the case is still unclear. “We may never answer that question,” she said.

There is the tragedy led to several lawsuitsincluding from crew members who have blame the production not following safety protocols properly.

During interviews with the sheriff’s office, some crew members described a lack of consistent meetings devoted to set safety. The night before filming, most of the crew had left due to complaints about overnight stays and other concerns; in an email to other people on the set informing them that he was leaving, Lane Looper, the head of the camera department, wrote that the shooting of the gunfight scenes was played “very fast and loose”, citing two accidental gunshots.

A lawyer for Ms. Gutierrez-Reid, who trained on the set with her father, a veteran Hollywood gunsmith named Tell Reid, previously said she filled two roles on the set of “Rust” — as a gunsmith and assistant to props – making it difficult for him to fully concentrate on his work as a gunsmith.

Mr. Baldwin maintained that he was not responsible for the shooting, saying that Ms. Hutchins directed him where to point the gun and that he did not pull the trigger before the gun went off. He told investigators he pulled the hammer back and fired it, which may have set it off.

“I know 1,000 percent that I am not responsible for what happened to her,” Mr. Baldwin told an investigator, Detective Alexandria Hancock, in a telephone conversation after the shooting.

Ms. Carmack-Althuis, a Democrat who was elected in 2020, said the FBI’s analysis of the gun showed “overwhelmingly” that the trigger was pulled.

Prosecutors said the people who plan to press charges this month will not be arrested but are expected to appear in a virtual court appearance. A New Mexico judge will then oversee a preliminary hearing on the charges and determine if there is probable cause to move forward.

Ms Gutierrez-Reid also accused Seth Kenny, the main supplier of weapons and ammunition for the film, of being responsible for the shooting. in a lawsuit against him and his company that the supplies he sent to the set mixed live rounds with fake rounds.

Mr. Kenny said he checked all the cartridges he provided to the production to make sure they were not live, saying in a statement that handling the guns and ammunition on set was the responsibility of Ms. Gutierrez- Reid.

Last year, Matthew Hutchins, Mrs Hutchins’ widower, agreed to settle his wrongful death lawsuit against the production “Rust”. Under the deal, Mr. Hutchins will become an executive producer on “Rust,” which was set to resume shooting this month. It was not immediately clear how the planned fees would affect those plans.

Mr. Hutchins’ lawyer, Brian J. Panish, said in a statement that he agreed with the decision to press criminal charges.

“It’s a comfort to the family that in New Mexico no one is above the law,” Mr. Panish said. “We support the charges, we will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and we sincerely hope that the justice system works to protect the public and hold those who break the law accountable.”

Brooks Barnes and Wesley Parnell contributed reporting.

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