In a trial beginning on Friday (February 24) in the US state of New Mexico, Alec Baldwin (64) will have to answer for the fatal shooting on the set of the western "Rust" in October 2021 by which camerawoman Halyna Hutchins (1979- 2021) passed away. Just a few days ago, prosecutors downgraded the charges against Baldwin. Instead of a possible prison term of five years, the star now faces a maximum of 18 months behind bars if he is found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a jury in the upcoming trial.
The US magazine "The Hollywood Reporter" spoke to legal experts about these latest developments in Baldwin's case. Specifically, it was about the question of whether the accused would accept a so-called "plea deal", i.e. would plead guilty in return for a lighter sentence. In that case, there would be no jury trial.
US attorney James Brosnahan estimates that Baldwin will not agree to such a deal because, despite all the dangers and unpredictability, a trial would also offer him the opportunity to rehabilitate himself, especially in public perception. "[Alec Baldwin] is thinking about his career," Brosnahan said, adding that the actor may be "emboldened" by the prosecution's "gross error" ahead of the trial to go for a trial.
Former US Attorney John Anderson agrees, suggesting that a plea deal would require Baldwin to admit guilt. This could also put the actor at a disadvantage in future civil lawsuits, in which claims for damages are likely to come his way. Agreements with prosecutors are often used in civil litigation as evidence of the defendant's liability.
Baldwin faces at least five civil lawsuits in connection with the fatal shooting on the set of the western Rust. Among other things, the family of the killed camerawoman is demanding damages of an unknown amount.
Only one of the experts interviewed by the "Hollywood Reporter", the lawyer Joshua Ritter, suspects that Baldwin will not go to trial. "He's facing jail time and he had the gun in his hand," Ritter explains. As such, Baldwin "will not place his fate in the hands of twelve jurors." The expert believes Baldwin will accept a suspended sentence as long as he does not have to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Cinematographer Hutchins was hit by a bullet from a gun while filming the western "Rust" in October 2021 and died of her injuries. Director Joel Souza (49) was also injured. Baldwin was preparing for a scene when he pointed the gun at the camerawoman and a shot went off. The 64-year-old denied any responsibility for the incident. Among other things, he had asserted that he had not pulled the trigger, but that the shot had gone off. According to investigations, the gun contained live ammunition. So far it has not been clarified how it got to the film set in the first place.