Baldwin fired the shot that killed Hutchins while preparing to film a scene in the church building of the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, N.M. The armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, loaded the weapon.
Mary Carmack-Altwies, the First Judicial District Attorney in Santa Fe, announced the charges in a statement on Thursday.
Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed each face two counts of involuntary manslaughter, which each carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail. They also will be charged with an enhancement for use of a firearm which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
The prosecutor also announced that David Halls, the film’s first assistant director, has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of “negligent use of a deadly weapon.” Halls handed the loaded Colt .45 to Baldwin. Under the plea agreement, Halls will be given six months of probation but will not serve jail time.
“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,” said Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by Carmack-Altwies to oversee the case, in a statement. “It’s that simple. 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.”
Baldwin has said that Halls told him the weapon was “cold,” meaning it contained only dummy rounds. But investigators found that the gun was loaded with one live bullet, which went through Hutchins’ torso and lodged in the shoulder of director Joel Souza.
Hutchins was airlifted to a hospital in Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead later that day.
Brian Panish, the attorney for Hutchins’ widower and son, issued a statement Thursday on behalf of the family expressing support for the charges.
“We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life,” Panish said. “Our independent investigation also supports charges are warranted. 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.”
Baldwin has repeatedly argued that he is not to blame for the incident. His attorneys have alleged that Halls, Gutierrez Reed, and two others were at fault for a chain of missteps that led to the shooting.
Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s attorney, said in a statement on Thursday that the decision “distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice.”
“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set,” Nikas said. “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.”
Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys, Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion, also faulted the investigation and said that their client will be acquitted at trial.
“Hannah is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident,” the attorneys said. “But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter. These charges are the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts. We intend to bring the full truth to light and believe Hannah will be exonerated of wrongdoing by a jury.”
Halls’ attorney, Lisa Torraco, said in an email that the plea agreement will allow him to put the matter behind him.
“Absent no charges at all, this is the best outcome for Mr. Halls,” she said. “He can now put this matter behind him and allow the focus of this tragedy to be on the shooting victims and changing the industry so this type of accident will never happen again.”
Baldwin has told interviewers that he did not pull the trigger, and that the gun went off when he let go of the hammer. An FBI forensic analysis determined that the gun was functioning normally, however.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office turned over its investigation to the prosecutor’s office in October, more than a year after the shooting took place. Carmack-Altwies submitted a request for $635,500 in state funding last year to pay for up to four criminal trials. She was granted half that amount.
The prosecutor’s office opted not to file charges against Sarah Zachry, the propmaster who worked closely with Gutierrez Reed, or Seth Kenney, the weapons supplier. Both have been named as defendants in several civil suits.
In its statement, the prosecutor’s office said that the involuntary manslaughter charges will be filed against Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed before the end of the month. Both defendants will then make a “first appearance” in court, which can be done virtually.
The next step would be a preliminary hearing, at which prosecutors must present enough evidence to show that the case merits going to trial. No court dates have yet been scheduled.
Hutchins’ death has led to a broader conversation about set safety, though to date no new laws have been passed to tighten regulations.
Much of the investigation focused on Gutierrez Reed, the 24-year-old armorer. Gutierrez Reed was working as an armorer for just the second time, and her time was divided between that job and a job in props. Investigators have not been able to determine how exactly live rounds became mixed with the dummy rounds she used to load the weapon.
Baldwin and the film’s producers announced a civil settlement on Oct. 5 with Halyna Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins. Under the agreement, the producers plan to resume filming, and they hope to complete the film and submit it for cinematography awards.
From Variety US