Actor Alec Baldwin has moved to disqualify the special prosecutor assigned to his involuntary manslaughter case, claiming that her status as a Republican lawmaker in the New Mexico House of Representatives makes her appointment flagrantly “unconstitutional.”
The crux of the motion attacks special prosecutor Andrea Reeb’s election as a state lawmaker, on the GOP ticket.
Baldwin claims that this flatly violates New Mexico’s constitution, which he claims prohibits mixing the two branches of government.
“Under Section 1 of Article III of the New Mexico Constitution, however, a sitting member of the Legislature may not ‘exercise any powers properly belonging’ to either the executive or judicial branch,” Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas writes in a motion to disqualify. “As a special prosecutor, Representative Reeb is vested by statute with ‘all the powers and duties’ of a District Attorney, who is considered to be a member of either the judicial or executive branch of the New Mexico government.”
Reeb introduced Baldwin’s prosecution to great fanfare last month, blaming the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins squarely on the shoulders of the defendants.
Baldwin was charged together with armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who faced identical charges, and assistant director David Halls, who pleaded down to negligent use of a deadly weapon.
If not for the actions of Baldwin, Gutierrez-Reed and Halls, Reeb said last month: “Hutchins would be alive today.”
Baldwin’s legal team argued that the case cannot proceed with Reeb as special prosecutor.
“The legal question is not a close one,” the motion says. “She must be disqualified.”
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies is an elected Democrat, and Baldwin — known for his liberal and anti-Donald Trump politics — appears to avoid alleging politics at play behind his prosecution. His motion makes a constitutional argument, not a political one.
“Her potential influence on her colleagues in the Legislature could thwart any efforts to legislatively foreclose a prosecution that has been widely criticized as unjust and unprecedented,” the motion argues. “Even if she recuses from votes on her own compensation, her clout with her colleagues on other matters could (wittingly or not) encourage them to maintain funding for her position. Were the arrangement here approved by the courts, future District Attorneys could seek to curry favor with legislators who control their budgets by appointing them to high-profile cases—distorting the legislative process.”
In a footnote, Baldwin cited a local news outlet quoting a different New Mexico lawmaker, State Representative Jason Harper (R), as calling the charges “a frivolous use of tax dollars and a waste of time.” The same footnote flags other criticism of the case, like the actors’ union calling it “wrong and uninformed” and a CNN legal analyst calling it “ill-advised.”
Even the perception of bias could harm the administration of justice, Baldwin argues.
“A prosecutor who also serves as a legislator could face pressure to make prosecutorial decisions that serve her legislative interests, such as by prosecuting a prominent defendant associated with an opposing faction within the Legislature even in the face of conflicting evidence or law,” the motion says. “And even if she does not allow her legislative interests to influence her prosecutorial choices, the perception of bias could diminish public confidence in the fairness of the criminal process.”
Baldwin faces the possibility of 5 years imprisonment if convicted of a firearms enhancement applied to his top charge, but some legal experts doubt that he will face anywhere near that penalty. That statute, lawyers note, was amended after the tragic shooting on the set of “Rust” in October 2021.
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