Alec Baldwin faces new manslaughter charge in ‘Rust’ tragedy

A year after the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of ‘Rust’, actor Alec Baldwin has been indicted by a grand jury on a new count of involuntary manslaughter. The indictment comes after prosecutors presented new forensic evidence that contradicts Baldwin’s claim that he did not pull the trigger of the gun that killed Hutchins.

What happened on the ‘Rust’ set?

On October 21, 2021, Baldwin was rehearsing a scene for ‘Rust’, a Western film that he was producing and starring in, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was handed a Colt .45 revolver by assistant director Dave Halls, who allegedly told him it was a “cold” gun, meaning it had no live ammunition. Baldwin pointed the gun at the camera and pulled the hammer back, causing the gun to fire a live round that struck Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder. Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to a hospital, where she died of her injuries. Souza, 49, was treated and released.

How did Baldwin react to the shooting?

Baldwin, 65, expressed “shock and sadness” at Hutchins’ death and cooperated with the authorities. He said he did not know how a live round ended up in the gun and denied that he pulled the trigger. He also argued that he was not responsible for checking the gun, as that was the job of the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and the assistant director. He gave several interviews to the media, in which he tearfully recounted the incident and said he felt “no guilt” over Hutchins’ death. He also faced backlash from some of Hutchins’ colleagues and family members, who accused him of being insensitive and dishonest.

Alec Baldwin faces

What were the initial charges against Baldwin?

In December 2021, Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment by the Santa Fe County District Attorney’s Office, along with Gutierrez-Reed and Halls. The charges carried a maximum sentence of four and a half years in prison. However, in April 2022, the charges against Baldwin were dropped, after his lawyers argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he acted negligently or recklessly. The charges against Gutierrez-Reed and Halls remained, and they pleaded not guilty.

What led to the new indictment?

In October 2022, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office announced that it had appointed a special prosecutor to review the case against Baldwin, after receiving new forensic evidence from the FBI. The evidence included a reconstruction of the gun, which had been broken during testing, and a report that concluded that the gun could only fire if the trigger was pulled or depressed sufficiently. The special prosecutor presented the evidence to a grand jury of 12, which issued a new indictment against Baldwin on January 19, 2024, on the anniversary of Hutchins’ death. The indictment charged Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter under two alternative theories: that he was negligent in his use of a firearm, or that he acted with total disregard or indifference for the safety of others. He can only be convicted on one of these theories, not both. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison.

What is Baldwin’s response to the new indictment?

Baldwin’s lawyers issued a statement on January 20, 2024, saying that they “look forward to our day in court” and that they are confident that Baldwin will be exonerated. They reiterated that Baldwin did not pull the trigger and that he was misled by Halls, who told him the gun was safe. They also accused the special prosecutor of pursuing a “political agenda” and of ignoring other evidence that supports Baldwin’s innocence. They said they will file a motion to dismiss the indictment as soon as possible.

What is the reaction of Hutchins’ family and friends?

Hutchins’ family and friends welcomed the new indictment and said they hope that justice will be served. Hutchins’ husband, Matthew Hutchins, and their 10-year-old son, Andros, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin, Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, and other parties involved in the production of ‘Rust’ in November 2021, seeking unspecified damages. Their lawyer, Gloria Allred, said in a statement that they “continue to seek the truth” in both the civil and criminal cases. Hutchins’ colleagues and fellow cinematographers also expressed their support for the new indictment and said they hope that it will lead to better safety standards and accountability in the film industry.

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