Alec Baldwin's Lawyer Doesn't Mince Words in Statement About 'Rust' Charges

An attorney for actor Alec Baldwin called New Mexico prosecutors' decision to charge him in the October 2021 shooting death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins a "terrible miscarriage of justice." Santa Fe First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb announced Thursday that Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. First assistant director David Halls agreed to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon.

"This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins' tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice," Baldwin's lawyer, Luke Nikas, wrote in a statement Thursday. "Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win."

The shooting happened on Oct. 21, 2021, at Bonanza Creek Ranch, where Baldwin was filming the independent Western film Rust. The actor was practicing with a Colt .45 revolver on set. A live round was discharged from the weapon. Hutchins, 42, was fatally shot and killed. Director Joel Souza was also injured in the accident. Carmack-Altwies said there will be no charges filed in the shooting of Souza. According to a search warrant affidavit, Halls told Baldwin he was given a "cold gun," which should have meant there were no live rounds in the weapon. However, investigators say a live round killed Hutchins. Halls reportedly told investigators he did not know there were live rounds in the weapon. In the weeks after the shooting, reports surfaced questioning the safety practices of the Rust crew.

The prosecutor and Reeb plan to formally file charges before the end of the month, they said, reports ABC News. At that point, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be issued a summons for their first court appearance. During the preliminary hearing, a judge will decide if there is probable cause for a trial. 

If the case does go to trial, it will be up to the jury to decide which definition of involuntary manslaughter the defendants are guilty of. Prosecutors have to prove "underlying negligence" for the first count, and they have to prove there was "more than simple negligence involved in a death" for the second, the district attorney's office said. The two courts are fourth-degree felonies, and the defendants could face up to 10 months in hail. There could be a "firearm enhancement" on the second charge that comes with a mandatory five-year sentence if the defendants are found guilty.

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"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," Carmack-Altwies said Thursday. "On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice."

Hutchins' family praised the charges. "Our independent investigation also supports that charges are warranted," the family's attorney, Brian Panish, said on their behalf. "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."