Alec Baldwin has one less Rust trial to worry about, for now.
Facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter in New Mexico for the fatal October 2021 shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, the actor has gotten a bit of breathing room in the California courts.
Responding to a petition from lawyers for Baldwin, Rust producers and other defendants as well as plaintiff Maime Mitchell in the latter’s negligence lawsuit, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge has paused the civil case and lifted any self-incrimination risk for the actor until next year, aka after the expected criminal trial in the Land of Enchantment in over.
In an order (read it here) inked Tuesday by LASC Judge Michael E. Whitaker, he stipulated that “The trial date be continued from May 17, 2023 to February 21, 2024, or as soon thereafter in accordance with the Court’s calendar and availability.”
“The Parties believe a continuance of the trial and all related dates serves the interests of all parties by allowing the parties to maximize good faith settlement negotiations and complete discovery,” said the order, hinting at a possible settlement down the line.
Regardless of any deal or not, this kind of stay is a standard move in instances of overlapping criminal and civil cases, as Bill Cosby and Danny Masterson have found in recent rape trials and tribulations of their own. The order by Whitaker comes as Baldwin and his Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed are expected to appear before New Mexico state Judge Mary Marlow Sommer on Thursday in a virtual status conference/hearing in the criminal case. With lawyers for all parties, plus Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies scheduled to be in attendance, the hearing is anticipated to lay down a preliminary hearing date in the matter. A date for Baldwin’s motion to disqualify special prosecutor and GOP state legislator Andrea Reeb could also be put on the calendar Thursday.
With all that, and a resurrected Rust supposedly set to start filming soon in Montana, it could be some time before Baldwin and Reed actually go to trial. Now facing 18 months behind bars and some fines for the death of Hutchins, the duo could still try to cut a deal of some sort with the D.A., like Rust first assistant director David Halls did.
Mere weeks after Hutchins’ death on October 21, 2021, Baldwin sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos for a primetime interview where he insisted he “didn’t pull the trigger” on the loaded un that killed the cinematographer and wounded director Joel Souza. Baldwin’s assertion was not backed up by the FBI in its analysis of the incident and the gun, as detailed in a 551-page report released by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office in November 2022. Add to that, Carmack-Altwies has claimed in the formal charges delivered January 31 that Baldwin was absent and neglectful of vital firearms and safety training on Rust.
Having entered a plea of not guilty in the criminal case February 23, Baldwin had a big win last month when a firearm enhancement statute that carried a five-year mandatory sentence was dropped by the D.A. amid the defense teams’ cries of unconstitutionality.
Still, in a case that will be no easy effort for prosecutors, no one has determined how rounds of live ammunition got on the Rust set.
To that point and, one of the first of a series of suits now before the courts in the Golden State and in New Mexico, Rust script supervisor Mitchell filed her lawsuit against Baldwin, the indie Western’s producers, Reed, Halls, property master Sarah Zachry and others on November 17, 2021.
Mitchell, who is being represented by Gloria Allred, was almost right next to Hutchins and Souza in the Bonanza Creek Ranch church set when the 1880s prop gun Baldwin was pointing in a rehearsal fired. Early in November 2022, Whitaker scorned Baldwin’s attempt to get out of the lawsuit. He also denied a motion from Baldwin and his El Dorado Pictures Inc to strike the script supervisor’s claim for punitive damages.
In response, Baldwin on November 11, 2022 hit back with a cross-complaint for negligence and indemnification against Reed, Halls, Zachry and Rust weapons and rounds supplier Seth Kenney.
That case is also halted until next year.
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