Over one year after Alec Baldwin fired a gun on the set of Rust and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza, the Hollywood actor was formally charged with involuntary manslaughter on the 31st of January.
The case has since taken a favourable turn for the disgraced actor, as Santa Fe District Attorney’s office announced Monday that they would be downgrading the charges both Baldwin and Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed are currently facing.
Previously, as per New Mexico criminal sentencing statute 31-18-16, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were facing a gun minimum of five years in prison for discharging a firearm “in the commission of a noncapital felony”.
Thus, they argued, Baldwin should have been charged under the version of the sentencing guidelines that were in effect at the time of the incident, which recommended a minimum jail time of three years rather than five.
“The prosecutors in this case have committed an unconstitutional and elementary legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a statute that did not exist on the date of the accident,” asserted the actor’s attorney’s.
Responding to the motion filed by Baldwin’s legal team, New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney spokesperson Heather Brewer told the media, “Another day, another motion from Alec Baldwin and his attorneys in an attempt to distract from the gross negligence and complete disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set that led to Halyna Hutchins’ death.”
“The District Attorney and the special prosecutor will review all motions–even those given to the media before being served to the DA,” she concluded.
However, despite her office’s protests, New Mexico DA Mary Carmack-Altwies ultimately sided with Baldwin’s attorneys and dropped the gun enchancement charges against both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed.
Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney Jason Bowles issued a statement praising Carmack-Altwies’ decision to downgrade the charges, declaring, “We applaud the decision of the district attorney to dismiss the firearm enhancement and it was the right call, ethically, and on the merits.”
While the firearm enhancement charge was downgraded, this doesn’t let neither the actor nor the armourer off the hook. Both Gutierrez-Reed and Baldwin, who was also charged as a producer of the film, could still face up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5000.
This particular course of action taken by Baldwin’s legal team came just days after the actor sought to dismiss special prosecutor in his involuntary manslaughter case, Andrea Reeb on the grounds that her right-leaning political affiliation could seemingly influence her prosectuorial conduct.
“Under Section 1 of Article III of the New Mexico Constitution, a sitting member of the Legislature may not ‘exercise any powers properly belonging’ to either the executive or judicial branch,” read the relevant motion filed by Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas,
A prosecutor who also serves as a legislator could face pressure to make prosecutorial decisions that serve her legislative interests, such as by prosecuting a prominent defendant associated with an opposing faction within the Legislature even in the face of conflicting evidence or law,” the motion added. “And even if she does not allow her legislative interests to influence her prosecutorial choices, the perception of bias could diminish public confidence in the fairness of the criminal process.”