Over a year after the on-set tragedy that ended the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust, Alec Baldwin and armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed have been officially charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Hutchins died on the 21st of October, 2021, on the set of Rust, when Baldwin was rehearsing for a scene and the gun he was holding went off, killing the cinematographer and injuring director Joel Souza.
The charges were formally made on Tuesday after criminal charges were officially announced against both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed on Thursday the 19th of January by Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies.
As per The Hollywood Reporter, prosecutors charged Baldwin as both actor and producer for the film. It is common knowledge that actors should make sure that the gun they’re holding is not loaded and is safe to use on any given film set.
Robert Shilling, special investigator for the Santa Fe District Attorney office, issued a statement of probable cause, stipulating, “the first rule of gun safety is never to point a gun at someone you don’t intend on shooting,” pointing out that the actor should have assumed the gun he was being handed was loaded with live rounds.
Shilling further noted Baldwin also neglected to undergo “required firearms training prior to the commencement of filming,” even “after [Gutierrez-Reed] requested more training.”
“This reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol directly caused the fatal shooting. Baldwin acted with willful disregard of the safety of others and in a manner which endangered other people,” his statement added.
The Santa Fe special investigator notes that Baldwin was also at fault for hiring Gutierrez-Reed, whom he described as “inexperienced and unqualified” in the document.
“As the producer of a firearm intense film, evidence shows that Baldwin allowed, through acts or omissions, the hiring of inexperienced and unqualified [Gutierrez-Reed] for this production, failed to mitigate or establish more precautions to protect against [Gutierrez-Reed’s] inexperience, or failed to demand the minimum safety standards, protocols, and requirements on set,” wrote Shilling.
Interestingly, the disgraced actor had stated that his role as a producer for Rust precluded him from being held legally responsible for the killing of Hutchins.
“It depends on what grade of producer you are,” Baldwin told former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, elaborating, “There are managerial producers who raise the money and spend the money and hire people. And there are creative producers who come in and the only authorities they have are over script casting; that’s the category I fall into.”
This was actually the second time Baldwin took such opportunity to shoot himself in the foot. In a now-infamous interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, just over a month after the tragic Rust incident, the actor contradicted his recollection of the event on several occasions, particularly claiming that he did neither pull the trigger nor cock the gun’s hammer.
At the time Baldwin claimed, “So I take the gun and I start to cock the gun. I’m not going to pull the trigger. I said, ‘Do you see this?’ She says, ‘Well, just cheat it down and tilt it down a little bit like that.’ And I cock the gun and I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’”
“And she says…and I let go of the hammer of the gun and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer of the gun and the gun goes off,” he went on. Contradicting his own version of the story, Baldwin proceeded to claim he did not cock the gun, recalling that he was pulling “the hammer as far back as I could without cocking [it].”
Contrary to Baldwin’s recollection of the tragic event, FBI documents obtained by ABC News in August of 2022 determined that “the gun could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger while the working internal components were intact and functional” with the firearm’s hammer fully cocked.
A press release published to the First Judicial District Attorney’s Facebook page on the 19th of January formally announced that both Alec Baldwin and armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed would be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the killing of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
“New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced on Thursday that, in keeping with her commitment to pursue justice for all victims and to hold everyone accountable under the law, her office before the end of the month will file criminal charges in the Rust film-set shooting,” prefaced the statement.
The document continued, “Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the film’s Santa Fe County set in 2021.”
The press release went on to explain that the involuntary manslaughter charge is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and an additional fine of $5,000, stipulating, “Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. This charge also includes the misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law.”
It goes on, “The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. This charge requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. This is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5000 fine. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, because a firearm was involved. The firearm enhancement makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.”
Further, the statement also revealed that Rust Assistant Director David Halls had “signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. The terms include a suspended sentence and six months of probation.”
Interestingly, the document states that “No charges will be filed specific to the non-fatal shooting of ‘Rust‘ director Joel Souza,” who was injured on the film’s set by the same bullet that killed Hutchins.
In a desperate effort to clear his name from wrongdoing, Baldwin himself filed a lawsuit against four members of the film’s crew. The disgraced actor’s cross-complaint accuses Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, Assistant Director David Halls, Seth Kenney alongside his prop-supplying company PDQ Arm & Prop, LLC, and props manager Sarah Zachry; all four defendants named in a legal complaint previously filed by Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell.
Filed in November of 2021, Mitchell’s suit also mentions Baldwin, accusing the actor of “intentionally, without just cause or excuse, cocked and fired the loaded gun even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of the firearm.”
Mitchell also accused the actor’s actions of constituting “assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deliberate infliction of harm.”
Baldwin’s also been hit with separate legal complaints. The first suit against the actor was filed by Rust gaffer Serge Svetnoy in November of 2021, accusing the incident of being “caused by the negligent acts and omission” of Baldwin, assistant director David Halls, and Gutierrez-Reed, as well as several members of the film’s production team and “their agents, principals, and employers.”
On February 14th of 2022, attorney Krystina Martinez filed a suit against Baldwin on behalf of Hutchins’ husband, Matthew Hutchins, and the couple’s son Andros, alleging that “Defendant Alec Baldwin recklessly shot and killed Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust,” further noting that the other defendants’ negligence regarding safety rules are also to blame for the death of the cinematographer.
In a turn of events, Hutchins’ family reached a settlement with Alec Baldwin in October of 2022. “We have reached a settlement, subject to court approval, for our wrongful death case against the producers of Rust, including Alec Baldwin and Rust Movie Productions, LLC,” read an statement issued by Matthew Hutchins.
“As part of that settlement, our case will be dismissed,” Hutchins added before revealing that the agreement gives him a producer role in the movie. “The filming of Rust, which I will now executive produce, will resume with all the original principal players on board in January 2023.”
He further noted, “I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin). All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.”