Serious allegations against a Hollywood star and a young gunsmith: Alec Baldwin (64) and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed have to answer to a court for negligent homicide after a deadly shot at a camerawoman during a western film shoot. Prosecutors in the US state of New Mexico have filed charges against both of them. The agency officially filed the lawsuit in the Santa Fe court. If found guilty with aggravating circumstances, both face up to five years in prison.
Camerawoman Halyna Hutchins was fatally injured while filming the western "Rust" at a Santa Fe film ranch in October 2021. Baldwin, who served as lead actor and producer on the film, was holding a gun in rehearsal for a scene when a shot went off. Director Joel Souza was hit in the shoulder by the projectile and injured in the incident. Investigations revealed that the Colt had a real bullet lodged in it. Baldwin and the armorer had always denied responsibility for the fatal accident.
Serious allegations against Baldwin and Armorer
District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies had already announced appropriate steps for an indictment in mid-January. On Tuesday she announced the court documents with the serious allegations. Baldwin acted in many ways "extremely" negligent. As an actor and as a producer of the film, he disregarded numerous safety regulations.
He is accused of having completed only minimal weapons training. Contrary to the guidelines, he aimed the gun at people. The indictment also challenges Baldwin's statement that the shot went off without his doing. The investigation would have shown that he had his finger on the trigger and operated the weapon.
With Gutierrez-Reed, the "Rust" producers would have hired an inexperienced and unqualified armorer. The young woman would have disregarded many safety precautions, for example she was not in the same room with Baldwin at the shooting scene. Despite her supervision, live ammunition got onto the set. Investigators found five real cartridges at the filming location, as well as the shell of the deadly bullet, it said.
The two accused must now appear before the magistrate within 30 days, but this is also possible via video conference.
Lawyer: "We will defend ourselves against these allegations"
Baldwin will defend himself against the allegations, said his lawyer Luke Nikas in mid-January. Baldwin had no way of knowing there was live ammunition in the gun or anywhere on the set. According to a statement from Nikas, he had relied on the employees who had assured him that there was no live ammunition in the weapon. "We will defend ourselves against these accusations and we will win".
Assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin the gun on the film set, has pleaded guilty to negligent handling of a gun, prosecutors say. He could get away with a suspended sentence after the judge's approval, it said.
Halyna Hutchins is survived by a husband and a son. A civil lawsuit filed by Matthew Hutchins, the camerawoman's widower, against Baldwin and others involved in the production of "Rust" was settled out of court last October. Her death was a "terrible accident", the widower emphasized at the time. They also announced plans to continue shooting the stalled "Rust" in recognition of the cinematographer's recent work. That now seems questionable. The family said they would fully support the involuntary manslaughter charge and cooperate with prosecutors two weeks ago.