A grand jury in New Mexico is again bringing charges against Alec Baldwin of involuntary manslaughter in the “Rust” case that over two years ago resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
The grand jury issued the indictment on Friday, January 19, with the indictment coming down exactly one year after the original, again occurring while much of Hollywood is at Sundance.
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Special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis on November 16 convened a grand jury and brought the charges after the previous case as led by New Mexico’s District Attorney fell apart. In New Mexico, an involuntary manslaughter charge should Baldwin be convicted could carry a maximum of 18 months in prison.
“We look forward to our day in court,” Baldwin’s attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel said in a statement to IndieWire.
The special prosecutors in October announced their intentions to re-charge Baldwin, saying they had uncovered new facts that pointed to recklessness around safety standards. The prosecutors at the time also shared forensic testing of the gun that discharged killing Hutchins, which contradicted Baldwin’s claim he did not pull the trigger on the gun before it fired.
In November, NBC News obtained unreleased footage from the set of “Rust,” which shows Baldwin firing prop guns with blanks during other scenes and giving safety directions to crew members, including instructing someone to move to the other side of the camera because “I don’t want to shoot towards you.”
Baldwin along with “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were each charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter back in January over the death of Hutchins on October 21, 2021. Those charges were later downgraded, and in April, new prosecutors brought onto the case dismissed the charges against Baldwin entirely, citing new facts that the gun used in rehearsal may have been modified and been easier to discharge on accident.
But they stressed that the book was never closed on Baldwin and the actor could be charged again in the case. On August 16, a new forensics report declared that the gun that discharged and killed Hutchins must have had the trigger pulled by Baldwin in order to fire. That was the same determination of the FBI over a year earlier, but Baldwin has maintained he never pulled the trigger, and Baldwin’s attorneys have previously challenged whether the gun, which was damaged, could properly be examined.
Bringing a conviction against Baldwin may still be an uphill battle. Prosecutors originally made an error by saying he broke a law that had not gone into effect until months after the shooting took place. A former federal prosecutor who spoke to IndieWire back in February argued that it would be difficult to prove criminal liability against Baldwin because he presumed the gun was filled with blanks and it was not his independent duty or job to check the gun.
An involuntary manslaughter charge against the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was not dropped, and she pleaded not guilty in August. Her trial is set for February 2024. First assistant director on “Rust” Dave Halls took a plea deal after being charged with the negligent handling of a weapon. Halls had not properly checked the weapon and announced “cold gun” before he handed it to Baldwin.
“Rust” resumed and completed filming in April of 2023, with Baldwin as an executive producer.
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