Although he’s still facing involuntary manslaughter charges, Alec Baldwin no longer has to fear a five-year prison sentence for the 2021 fatal shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
“In order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor have removed the firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the Rust film set,” Heather Brewer, spokesperson for New Mexico First Judicial D.A. Mary Carmack-Altwies told Deadline this morning. “The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys,” a distinct swipe at the contentious Baldwin and his lawyers.
After an extensive and FBI-assisted investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office was released late last year, Baldwin and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were formally charged by D.A. Carmack-Altwies with two counts of involuntary manslaughter on January 31 over the tragic October 21, 2021, death of Hutchins at Bonanza Creek Ranch. Rust director Joel Souza was wounded in the shooting.
The first hearing in the Rust case is set for February 24 with Baldwin and Reed scheduled to join virtually.
Under New Mexico law, the first charge had 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 was a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5000 fine. However, now disregarded, the second charge also carried a firearm enhancement, which transforms the offense to a mandatory five years in state prison if found guilty.
It was that second charge and the recent statute that created the sentence that Baldwin and his lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan began to argue with the D.A. over earlier this month.
An argument that they now have won.
The first amended criminal information filing in New Mexico court occurred on February 17 but became public today (read it here). It now reads: “Count 1: Involuntary Manslaughter, (0007), on or about October 21, 2021 in Santa Fe County, New Mexico at the Bonanza Creek Ranch located at 545 Bonanza Creek Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508 the above-named defendant did cause the death of Halyna Hutchins, committed in the commission of an unlawful act, to wit: Negligent Use of a Deadly Weapon, contrary to 30-7-4 (a)(3), and/or 30-7-4(a)(4), a fourth degree felony, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-2-3(B)(1994).”
Reed’s attorney Jason Bowles today Deadline, “We applaud the decision of the District Attorney to drop the gun enhancement and it was the right call, ethically, and on the merits.” Contacted by Deadline, reps for Baldwin had no comment Monday on the D.A.’s move.
It goes without saying that the multiple Emmy winner and his NYC-based legal team must be ecstatic over their successful challenge of the charges and the blunting of the sword of Damocles hanging over Baldwin and co-defendant Reed.
“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,” said Baldwin’s defense team in a motion filed in New Mexico court on February 10. “It thus appears that the government intended to charge the current version of the firearm enhancement statute, which was not enacted until May 18, 2022, seven months after the accident,” the filing went on to say.
“Accordingly, that enhancement should not be bound over,” the document adds in an opinion that has divided legal scholars. “Application of the current version of the statute would be unconstitutionally retroactive, and the government has no legitimate basis to charge Mr. Baldwin under the version of the statute that existed at the time of the accident.”
Taking a hit on Baldwin and his “fancy attorneys, the D.A.’s office responded at the time by saying that “In accordance with good legal practice, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor will review all motions – even those given to the media before being served to the DA.”
Still fighting with Baldwin and his certainly emboldened team over their efforts to have special prosecutor Andrea Reeb removed from the case because of her dual role as an elected GOP New Mexico legislator , the result of Carmack-Altwies’ self-described review isn’t a good position for the D.A. to be in going into what could be a long and bitter trial — if it even gets to that.
FYI: New Mexico Judge Mary Marlow Sommer has granted the D.A. its request to have until March 6 to respond to the defense’s motion on Reeb.
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