UPDATED with more details from filings: Alec Baldwin and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed did not follow safety procedures and acted in “a negligent manner,” according to a formal filing Tuesday in New Mexico of two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021.
Just filed, the dense document also contends that the gun that killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza was not properly inspected, that ongoing safety issues on the set were not addressed, that Baldwin neglected to take required training, and that the veteran actor directly pointed a gun at someone on set – something that is never supposed to happen.
“On the day of the shooting alone, evidence shows that no less than a dozen acts, or omissions of recklessness, occurred in the short time prior to lunch and the time of the shooting, and this does not include the reckless handling of the firearm by Baldwin,” read the statement of probable cause filed among several documents today. “Baldwin, by act or omission or failure to act in his position as a producer directly contributed and/or failed to mitigate numerous reckless and dangerous actions during a very short time period,” the filing goes on to say (read it here).
“Finally, industry standards, protocols, and common firearm safety procedures on movie sets require the armorer, after conducting a safety check with the 1st assistant director, to conduct a second safety check with the actor to be handling the firearm,” the document notes. “This reckless violation of standards and firearm safety occurred two (2) times leading up to the shooting, and Baldwin failed to act to mitigate or correct the reckless safety violations, neither in his capacity as actor nor producer.”
“This reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol directly caused the fatal shooting,” the paperwork from Special Investigator Robert Shilling of the Santa Fe D.A.’s office notes. “Baldwin acted with reckless disregard and/or more than mere negligence in this incident. Baldwin acted with willful disregard of the safety of others and in a manner that endangered other people and he clearly should have known the danger of his actions which led to the death of Hutchins. Furthermore, Baldwin handled the weapon in a negligent manner.”
The scathing assessment goes on to say that in “pointing the gun at Hutchins and Souza, and the overall handling of the firearm in a negligent manner, Baldwin acted with willful disregard of the safety of others and in a manner which endangered other people, specifically Hutchins and Souza. Baldwin clearly should have known of the danger of his actions which led to the death of Hutchins.”
Attorneys for Baldwin had no comment Tuesday’s formal filing when contacted by Deadline.
As promised by First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies’ office, the long-awaited official charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were placed in the state court docket in Santa Fe this afternoon. The filing, plus yet to be released information on the plea agreement Rust 1st assistant director David Halls made with the D.A., follows the January 19 announcement that multiple Emmy winner Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed would be charged and could face up to five years in New Mexico prison if found guilty.
“Today we have taken another important step in securing justice for Halyna Hutchins,” Carmack-Altwies said after the filing was made, adding in language she’s used before, “In New Mexico, no one is above the law and justice will be served.”
Although Rust star-producer Baldwin has repeatedly insisted he did not pull the trigger while pointing the 1880s prop gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal on the indie Western, evidence and analysis from the local sheriff’s office and the FBI contained in a 551-page report made public November 18 strongly suggests otherwise. “With the hammer at full cock, the revolver could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger while the working internal components were intact and functional,” the police probe said.
Along with labor issues on the indie Western, which was budgeted at $7 million, the investigation also cited various “negligent discharges” on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set even before the fatal shooting, as well as finding five more rounds of live ammunition on set. How that ammo got there and in the gun that was in Baldwin’s hand remains a mystery, and is destined to be a focal point of the forthcoming trial.
“As armorer, Gutierrez-Reed was ultimately responsible for correcting or mitigating these and any safety violations from cast/crew,” today’s statement of probable cause against her explained.
“In this circumstance it is common practice (and expected) for any actor handling or firing a weapon to check for safety,” the document added. “The armorer’s role is to provide that proper safe handling and management in order for them to do so. Reed not only failed in this regard but was not even present. This ultimately was exaggerated by the weapon being used by Baldwin in an unsafe manner in close proximately to cast and crew ultimately pointing the weapon, in violation of the most cross-industry established safety rule, at Halyna and firing. All these actions knowingly without an armorer present against industry safety standards, practice and Union regulations.”
However, in a case that has been far from straightforward from the beginning when the weapon went off at the set location outside Santa Fe on October 21, 2021, getting convictions and what those verdicts might be remains thorny. Besides finding responsibility in the accident itself, the D.A. has said that she intends to allow the jury to pick between the two involuntary manslaughter charges in a process known as “charged in the alternative.”
Under New Mexico law, the first charge has lighter consequences as a fourth-degree felony, with sentencing of up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The second charge, involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, also is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5000 fine. However, the second charge carries a firearm enhancement, which transforms the offense to a mandatory five years in state prison if found guilty.
A requested hearing in the next 60 days or so will see prosecutors lay out their case in front of a judge. If the judge decides there is enough evidence to warrant moving forward, a trial date will soon follow. Neither Baldwin nor Gutierrez-Reed have been arrested, and both will be allowed to appear remotely at a self-described “first appearance” on February 24 under state statutes.
Earlier this month, lawyers for Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed called the D.A.’s decision to go for criminal charges a “terrible miscarriage of justice” and “are the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts,” respectively. After the D.A. said she and would be filing criminal charges, SAG-AFTRA came out January 19 to call the claims against guild member Baldwin “wrong and uninformed.” The more than 116,000-member strong union added: “The death of Halyna Hutchins is a tragedy, and all the more so because of its preventable nature. It is not a failure of duty or a criminal act on the part of any performer.”
Amidst a torrent of lawsuits from Rust crew members and even Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed themselves over what happened that terrible day in 2021, Tuesday’s filing of criminal charges comes almost a year after the production was fined the maximum of around $137,000 by New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau for “willful and serious” violation of workplace safety procedures on the film.
Blunting a potential legal leg-hold, Baldwin and Rust producers reached a settlement with the Hutchins Estate on October 5, 2022, ending a wrongful death suit brought by her family in mid-February.
Under that deal, the cinematographer’s husband Matthew Hutchins was set to become an executive producer on a resurrected Rust movie, which was tentatively scheduled to start reshooting early in 2023. While the production has been scouting locations in California, including in Simi Valley, insurance issues were sure to bedevil the film, and thereby stop it from restarting.
After much congratulations all round last year, the tone of that settlement with the Hutchins family also shifted when the D.A. made public her intention to seek criminal charges in the case.
“We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life,” said Hutchins’ family attorney Brian J. Panish on January 19. “Our independent investigation also supports charges are warranted. It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law.”
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