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Alec Baldwin charged with manslaughter in ‘Rust’ shooting

Alec Baldwin charged with manslaughter in ‘Rust’ shooting

A New Mexico grand jury indicted Alec Baldwin on Friday for involuntary manslaughter, reviving criminal charges against him in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the film “Rust” more than two years ago when he was armed with a gun. the rehearsal with ended.

The indictment, which comes exactly a year after the first manslaughter case against him was announced, represents the latest reversal of fortune for Mr. Baldwin. The local prosecutor’s initial case collapsed and the original charge against Mr. Baldwin was dismissed in April. But a new team of prosecutors, Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis, decided to present the case to a grand jury, which indicted Mr. Baldwin on Friday.

In New Mexico, a conviction for involuntary manslaughter on a charge like the one Mr. Baldwin faces can result in up to 18 months in prison.

“We look forward to our day in court,” Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, said in a statement Friday.

Mr. Baldwin – who starred in and was a producer of the western “Rust” – has claimed he was not responsible for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, saying he was told the gun contained no live ammunition. and that there was not supposed to be any live ammunition on set. He also maintained that he did not pull the trigger when the gun fired, although a forensic report commissioned by the prosecution determined that he must have pulled the trigger for the gun to fire. gun goes off, which contributed to the decision to revive the criminal case.

For months, the possibility of a new indictment has loomed over Mr. Baldwin, 65, who has rarely kept a low profile. As prosecutors prepared to take their case to the grand jury, the actor made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” made the headlines following a heated exchange with a protester during a pro-Palestinian demonstration, and has frequently posted on Instagram about politics and his family. But there have been signs that Mr. Baldwin, who has said in court papers that the affair has made it harder for him to get acting work, may face financial pressure: He has recently put his 10,000 square foot home in the Hamptons on the market for $19 million, appearing in a real estate ad for the property.

The 12-person grand jury convened to hear the case in New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe starting Thursday. At least eight jurors had to agree that there was probable cause for charges.

The indictment charges Mr. Baldwin with two different counts of manslaughter, but he can only be convicted of one. The most serious accuses him of “total disregard or indifference to the safety of others,” while the other accuses him of negligent use of a firearm. Both are felony charges.

Several witnesses testified before the grand jury, according to the indictment, including Alexandria Hancock, a detective involved in the initial investigation; “Rust” crew members Ross Addiego and Lane Luper; Marissa Poppell, a crime scene technician who worked on the case; and Bryan Carpenter, consultant on industry practices surrounding firearms.

On the day of filming, October 21, 2021, the production was setting up a tight frame of Mr. Baldwin’s character — a grizzled outlaw named Harland Rust — pulling an old-fashioned revolver from a shoulder holster and pointing toward the camera when the gun was fired. A bullet struck and killed Ms. Hutchins and injured the film’s director, Joel Souza. Following the shooting, investigators found five additional live rounds on set, but law enforcement who investigated the case never put forward a theory as to how they ended up there.

The film’s gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for guns and ammunition on the set of the film, also faces a manslaughter charge. She has pleaded not guilty and her trial is scheduled for February.

Dave Halls, the film’s first assistant director, who was responsible for security on set, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the case, avoiding prison time.

The legal question is whether Mr. Baldwin acted with “willful disregard” for the safety of others when he handled the weapon that day – even though the actor had been told that the weapon did not contain live ammunition and that live ammunition was prohibited. together.

The prosecutors who initially handled the case — Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and Andrea Reeb, an attorney appointed as a special prosecutor — argued that was the case.

They filed suit against him a year ago, in January 2023, arguing that as an actor and producer of the film, Mr. Baldwin had a responsibility to ensure the gun did not contain live ammunition. His lawyer and others in the film industry, including gunsmiths and actors, have disputed that notion, saying actors are supposed to trust the professionals hired to handle weapons on set. SAG-AFTRA, the union representing film and television actors, said at the time that “the prosecutor’s assertion that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is flawed and uninformed” and that “an actor’s job is not to be an expert on firearms or weapons.

Prosecutors’ initial case collapsed following challenges from Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers, who pointed out that Mr. Baldwin had been improperly charged under a law that did not exist at the time of the shooting, and that Ms. Reeb was serving simultaneously inappropriately as a lawyer. special prosecutor and member of the New Mexico legislature.

After Ms. Reeb resigned and a judge ruled that the prosecutor could not appoint a new special prosecutor to work on the case without removing herself, Ms. Carmack-Altwies assigned the case to a new team of attorneys, Ms. Morrissey and Mr. Lewis. They dismissed the original charge against Mr. Baldwin after receiving new evidence indicating that the weapon could have been modified in a way that made it easier to fire without the trigger having been pulled.

They reserved the right to reload Mr. Baldwin after sending the gun for further inspection. A new forensic report by Lucien C. Haag determined that Mr. Baldwin must have pulled the trigger, finding that the weapon needed two pounds of pressure to fire.

But to carry out the tests, Mr. Haag had to replace parts of the weapon, which had been damaged by the FBI during its own analysis. This complication will certainly be raised by Mr. Baldwin’s defense, which has called the resumption of prosecutions “ill-advised.”

Mr. Baldwin said he removed the hammer from the gun and when he released it, without pulling the trigger, the gun discharged.

“Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” Mr. Baldwin said in a television interview a little more than a month after the shooting . “Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who it is, but I know it’s not me.”

Prosecutors continue to investigate how the live ammunition arrived on the film set. In September, Ms. Morrissey wrote an email to a lawyer for Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, which he recently released in a court filing, saying that if Ms. Gutierrez-Reed were to provide information about the source of the live ammunition, it would “help greatly in obtaining a favorable resolution.”

Last year, as the initial criminal case against him collapsed, Mr. Baldwin spent weeks finishing filming “Rust,” which the producers decided to end as a tribute to Ms. Hutchins.

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Mattie B. Jiménez

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