Special prosecutors have not decided whether criminal charges will be refiled against Alec Baldwin in the fatal 2021 shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, but the actor this week is trying to stop crew members from the indie Western from taking him to court.
Meanwhile, armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has seen her criminal trial kicked down the road to next year.
Attorneys for Baldwin and El Dorado Pictures have filed a motion to dismiss the civil case brought in February by Rust crew members Ross Addiego, Doran Curtin and Reese Price, who accused Baldwin and the producers of “negligent and reckless conduct.” Hedging their bets, the defendants also have a motion pending to stay the whole matter until the Rust criminal trial is done and determined.
New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court has a hearing set for Wednesday on those motions, with the outcome potentially creating a significant blast radius for not just the criminal case, (from which Baldwin was dropped from in April, but also for various other ongoing civil cases against Baldwin in New Mexico and California.
Baldwin has long insisted he never pulled the trigger on the 1880s prop gun that killed Hutchins and injured Rust director Joel Souza on October 21, 2021 on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set near Santa Fe, NM. Baldwin, pointing the gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal, says the gun simply went off – an insistence the FBI disagreed with in its report on the matter released last year. Initially charged by the local D.A. under much more putative measures, Baldwin, like Gutierrez-Reed, was looking at a maximum of 18 months behind bars and about $5,000 in fines if found guilty.
In that sense, Baldwin was partially vindicated when newly appointed special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis dismissed involuntary manslaughter claims against the actor this spring because of concerns about the state of the firearm in question and potential modifications that may have occurred. While Morrissey and Lewis have proceeded with their investigation of Gutierrez-Reed, who has pleaded not guilty, the duo made sure to leave the door open to pull Baldwin back into the criminal case if evidence warranted it.
That time could be near, maybe.
“Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” reads a forensics report commissioned by the prosecutors and made public last week (read the Rust forensics report here).
Weapons examiners Lucien Haag and Michael Haag added in the August 2 report, “If the hammer had not been fully retracted to the rear, and were to slip from the handler’s thumb without the trigger depressed, the half cock or quarter cock notches in the hammer should have prevented the firing pin from reaching any cartridge in the firing chamber.”
Having made their displeasure on how the Rust probe was handled by local police and Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies known, whether the special prosecutors now make the move to refile charges against the much-sued Baldwin remains a wildcard even with the new report. “Charges against Mr. Baldwin are being considered but a final decision has not yet been made,” said special prosecutor Morrisey on August 16 after the Haags’ graphics and photography heavy report was submitted. “We won’t be pressured by Ms. Gutierrez’s attorneys or anyone else in this regard.”
Regardless of how that aspect of the case plays out, the already delayed criminal trial was rescheduled Monday from the end of this year to February 21, 2024. Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer Jason Bowles had no comment on the latest date change when contacted by Deadline.
The reason given for the change was “scheduling issues” around witnesses, I hear from an individual close to the case. New Mexico District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer has penciled in the criminal trial to run through March 6.
That will make it almost a year after a resurrected Rust production began filming in Montana with producer Baldwin back in front of the camera as retired gunslinger Harland Rust and Souza directing.
Completing production a few weeks later, Rust 2.0 saw widower and entertainment lawyer Matthew Hutchins join as an executive producer on both the feature film and a documentary about his wife. The EP role was part of Hutchins’ October 2022 legal settlement with Rust producers after he had filed filed a wrongful-death suit earlier that year.
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