Criminal charges will soon be filed over the shooting on the set of the western film “Rust” that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021, a prosecutor in New Mexico announced Thursday. Actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed each face over a year behind bars on charges of involuntary manslaughter.
Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams took issue with the charging decision during an appearance on the Law&Crime Network.
Last September, the lead prosecutor requested additional funding for her investigation during a New Mexico Board of Finance meeting where she said that charges would likely be filed against between one and four people. That request, Abrams said, rendered Thursday’s announcement somewhat unsurprising, in a sense. But, he added, the charges themselves are another issue.
“I’m surprised, in particular, at how they threw the book at Alec Baldwin,” Abrams told host Michelle Yu. “Because this isn’t just an involuntary manslaughter charge. Because, under New Mexico law, typical involuntary manslaughter: up to 18 months in prison. You just have to show negligence. That’s what we were expecting. They’ve offered a potential jury two theories here.”
Abrams went on to read from a document that outlines a mandatory, five-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter if jurors find “more than simple negligence” was involved in the homicide.
“These prosecutors, even if they wanted to charge Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter, didn’t also have to offer this second option,” he added. “Which is to say, an even stiffer potential crime where you’re talking about the possibility of a mandatory, five-year prison term.”
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a written statement obtained by Law&Crime that her review of the facts and the law found sufficient evidence to proceed with the charges.
“This charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, because a firearm was involved,” the DA’s office said. “The firearm enhancement makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.”
As for the strength of those charges, enhancement or otherwise, Abrams was not particularly impressed.
“I think they’re gonna have a hard time getting a conviction,” he said. “I think they still have a number of hurdles to overcome here. First of all, they have to have a preliminary hearing. Typically, in a preliminary hearing, it’s pretty pro forma; a judge is just determining is there enough evidence to send the case to trial. In this case, though, I think there’s gonna be a real fight at the preliminary hearing. Particularly to throw out the more significant – the more dangerous for Alec Baldwin – involuntary manslaughter charge here.”
In the event the case goes to a jury, Abrams said, he wasn’t sure jail time for the Hollywood actor was in the offing.
“Everyone agrees this was a mistake,” Abrams said. “Everyone. It’s just a question of whether it was a criminal mistake.”
Yu then brought up a recent interview Baldwin gave to ABC News where he claimed he didn’t pull the trigger of the gun that killed his colleague.
“It was a really dumb comment for Alec Baldwin to make,” Abrams said. “He said that he cocked the gun and it went off…the reason that’s so dangerous is because, now, in an FBI report, they believe that the trigger had to have been pulled. If they’re right, that means Alec Baldwin’s lying. And that’s not helpful to him.”
[image via screengrab/Law&Crime Network/YouTube]
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