After more than a year of speculation about whether Alec Baldwin would face criminal charges over the 2021 shooting death of the cinematographer on the set of his Western film “Rust,” prosecutors announced on January 19, 2023, that the actor and producer will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer who loaded the firearm that day and was responsible for overseeing weapons on the film set, will also be charged with involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors say.
Baldwin’s Gun Discharges, Killing Cinematographer
While rehearsing a “Rust” scene with a revolver, Alec Baldwin, under the direction of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, unholstered his prop gun and pointed it at Hutchins. The gun unexpectedly discharged, killing Hutchins and wounding the film’s director, Joel Souza. Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza in October 2022 submitted the results of a yearlong investigation into the deadly shooting, but the report did not specify how live rounds ended up on the film set.
Who is at Fault for the Deadly Shooting?
Baldwin, 64, has gone to great lengths over the past year to absolve himself of responsibility for the cinematographer’s death, which the actor has called a “tragic accident.” He stated in a December 2021 television interview that “Someone is responsible for what happened,” remarking, “I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.” However, prosecutors say that Baldwin had a duty to ensure that the revolver he was using was safe to handle.
According to reports, the film’s first assistant director, David Halls, is the one who handed Baldwin the revolver before the shooting occurred. Court documents state that Halls called out “cold gun” when he handed over the revolver, to indicate that the gun did not contain live ammunition. Halls has agreed to a plea deal on a charge of “negligent use of a deadly weapon.”
Several lawsuits were filed in the aftermath of the “Rust” shooting, including claims by crew members who accused the production of failing to comply with standard safety protocols. Baldwin himself sued Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, David Halls, and prop master Sarah Zachry for supplying him with a loaded gun.
Prosecutor States: “Everybody’s Equal Under the Law”
The charges brought against Baldwin came as a shock to many in the film industry and others who regarded Hutchins’ death as a tragic accident, especially since the charges carry prison time. “We’re trying to definitely make it clear that everybody’s equal under the law, including A-list actors like Alec Baldwin,” stated Andrea Reeb, a special prosecutor appointed by Santa Fe County’s district attorney. “And we also want to make sure that the safety of the film industry is addressed and things like this don’t happen again.”
Baldwin’s legal team has pushed back against the manslaughter charges, calling the prosecutor’s decision to charge the actor “a terrible miscarriage of justice.” A lawyer for Baldwin, Luke Nikas, said in a statement, “Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win.”
Penalties Baldwin Could Face for Manslaughter
Alec Baldwin has been a household name in America for decades, as a respected television and film actor and producer. And while he has faced scrutiny in the past for some of his questionable behavior off-screen, he has never before been up against something that could jeopardize his reputation and his career to this extent. Involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony offense punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. If Baldwin is found guilty, he could face a mandatory sentence of five years in prison since a firearm was involved in the offense.
At Sevens Legal, our San Diego criminal defense attorneys have spent decades defending clients against a wide range of criminal charges, including homicide, manslaughter, and murder. To learn more about how Sevens Legal can represent you in your criminal case, you can contact the firm directly at (619) 430-2355.