Alec Baldwin was charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter in connection to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust last year.
Following a lengthy investigation, the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced charges stemming from the Oct. 2021 shooting on Thursday. In addition to Baldwin, the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will also face involuntary manslaughter charges, while first assistant director David Halls was hit with a negligent use of a deadly weapon charge; Halls has already agreed to plead guilty to that count.
“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”
“If any one of these three people—Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls—had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple,” Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by the DA to the case, added. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the Rust film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”
According to the District Attorney’s Office, both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “‘charged in the alternative’ with the two counts of manslaughter, meaning that a jury would decide not simply if they were guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they were guilty.” If found guilty of just involuntary manslaughter, a fourth-degree felony, both would face up to 18 months in prison. However, if found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which includes a “firearm enhancement” on the charge, the punishment is a mandatory five-year prison sentence.
The charges will formally be filed later this month, at which point each defendant will receive a summons to appear at the first hearing; the District Attorney’s Office noted that the defendants could appear virtually at the hearing.
Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded during a rehearsal on the set of Rust on Oct. 21, 2021. The incident occurred when Baldwin inadvertently discharged a prop gun that had been loaded with a live round. There have been numerous investigations into the incident by various government agencies, from the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office to the FBI.
The New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney’s Office had also been conducting its own investigations, with recent actions suggesting it was gearing up to file charges. Back on Sept. 23, The New Mexican reported that the state Board of Finance had awarded the DA’s office over $317,000 (out of a requested $635,000) to prosecute people connected to the shooting. While District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies declined to say who would face criminal charges at the time, the original funding request noted Baldwin as one of “the possible defendants.”
Though these are the first criminal charges to be brought in connection to Hutchins’ death, the shooting has prompted several civil lawsuits (as well as some fines). Most notably, Hutchins’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin, Rust producer Ryan Donnell Smith, rookie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, assistant director Dave Halls, prop master Sarah Zachary, and “armorer mentor” Seth Kenney.
The Hutchins family lawsuit read in part, “Halyna Hutchins deserved to live and the Defendants had the power to prevent her death if they had only held sacrosanct their duty to protect the safety of every individual on a set where firearms were present instead of cutting corners on safety procedures where human lives were at stake, rushing to stay on schedule and ignoring numerous complaints of safety violations.” (Baldwin has denied responsibility for Hutchins’ death and demanded the wrongful death suit be taken to arbitration in a filing this past March.)