All charges have been dropped against Alec Baldwin over the fatal shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021, and a resurrected version of the film has almost completed filming in Montana, but the legal battle could be far from over.
As Baldwin is off the hook for now, the person who was responsible for guns on the Rust set is trying to have the involuntary manslaughter charges still pending against her dismissed by the New Mexico judge, due in no small part to an allegedly incompetent Santa Fe District Attorney’s office and an allegedly flawed case.
“They directed a sloppy investigation in which key evidence was destroyed, made overly aggressive charging decisions, including an elementary Constitutional mistake, and undertook road shows to disparage Reed and to promote their own personal brands,” lawyers for former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed charged of DA Mary Carmack-Altwies and former special prosecutor Andrea Reeb in a motion to dismiss filed today (read it here).
“Because this prosecution was motivated by personal interests — not the facts or the law — it was shaped with the goal of prevailing in the court of public opinion, not a jury trial,” attorneys Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion added in the damning 33-page filing. “As a result, corners were cut and the prosecution team committed other due process and ethical violations.”
Following the release of an FBI-assisted investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office last November, Baldwin and Reed in January were formally charged by prosecutors with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death.
Inching toward a much-delayed preliminary examination, aka minitrial, this summer, Reed is looking at a maximum of 18 months behind bars and around $5,000 in fines if a jury eventually delivers a guilty verdict on the current charges. She has pleaded not guilty.
With tales familiar to those who have been following this case the past year and a half, Reed’s lawyers lay out a litany of failures, faceplants and GOP political maneuvering that found the local DA clearly out of her depth. Add to the fact that the gun Baldwin was holding during a Rust rehearsal that killed DoP Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza has been damaged after testing by the FBI, the whole thing is a mess — as now special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis, who joined the case in late March, made pretty clear last month when charges against the Oscar-nominated actor were dropped.
“After repeatedly striking the firearm with a rawhide mallet, internal components of the firearm broke,” Bowles and Bullion state of the consequences of FBI’s tests. “The unavailability of this material evidence is prejudicial to Reed. Mr. Baldwin’s charges have now been dismissed, on grounds that the firearm was ‘modified,’ and that the FBI’ s destruction of the sear renders an ultimate determination now impossible or near impossible.”
Well, maybe not entirely, according to the special prosecutors.
With their April 20 pledge that Baldwin is not absolved in the matter “and charges may be refiled,” the newly appointed special prosecutors have transferred possession of the .45-caliber revolver the Rust actor-producer was holding that killed Hutchins transferred from the Santa Fe Sherriff’s Department to an outside ballistics expert for forensic testing. In fact, in an order signed by Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer this week, several guns from the indie Western, plus “suspected live rounds” and more, are being transferred as the mystery of how live ammo got on the set that tragic day and whether Baldwin actually pulled the trigger on the firearm continue to be investigated.
Since an interview on ABC just weeks after the Hutchins’ death, Baldwin has insisted over and over that he did not pull the trigger on the 1880s prop gun that killed the cinematographer. It was an insistence that the FBI disagreed with in its report on the matter released last year. However, in a move that looks more and more poignant as the weeks go by, Baldwin lawyers contested the state of the gun, back in March..
Overlooked or unmentioned by law enforcement and Santa Fe DA Carmack-Altwies’ office, the modification of the gun might have led to the firearm actually going off without Baldwin actually pulling the trigger during the rehearsal that fatally wounded Hutchins and injured Souza.
Whether Judge Sommer decides to dismiss the charges against Reed or “consider lesser sanctions,” as today’s filing offers as an alternative, Rust looks likely to still be in the courts in some form or another for many months to come.