(SANTA FE, N.M.) — Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 2021 fatal shooting on the New Mexico set of the film “Rust,” officials said Thursday.
Santa Fe First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb announced their decision Thursday morning in a written statement shared with media.
First assistant director David Halls has already agreed to no contest for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”
In a statement, Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, wrote, “This 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. 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.”
Possible prison sentences on charges
Carmack-Altwies’ office said in October she would conduct a “thorough review of the information and evidence to make a thoughtful, timely decision about whether to bring charges” following a yearlong sheriff’s investigation into the on-set shooting.
Halyna Hutchins, 42, was working as a cinematographer on the Western when she was shot and killed by the film’s star, Baldwin, during an accident while he was practicing using a Colt .45 revolver on set. Director Joel Souza was also injured in the shooting.
Hutchins’ family said they support the charges and found them warranted “for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life.”
“Our independent investigation also supports that charges are warranted,” attorney Brian Panish said in a statement on behalf of the family. “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.”
In an interview with ABC News, Lisa Torraco, attorney for Halls, said he signed his plea agreement Wednesday.
“Mr. Halls and I are disappointed that she decided to bring a charge at all,” she said. “We believe that criminally he should have been completely exonerated. But we are happy with the resolution that she did propose, and that is the petty misdemeanor negligent use of a weapon.”
She continued, “When confronted with a potential felony, hearing up to 6 1/2 years in prison, or confronted with a petty misdemeanor, which was six months unsupervised probation, sometimes it gets to be the weighing of which choice is better, which of the lesser evils.”
No charges will be filed in the shooting of Souza, the district attorney’s office said.
Carmack-Altwies and Reeb will formally file charges before the end of the month, at which point each defendant will be issued a summons for their first court appearance, which can be done virtually or waived, prosecutors said. During a preliminary hearing, a judge will decide whether there is probable cause to move forward with a trial. Preliminary hearings are typically scheduled within 60 days of charges being filed, according to the district attorney’s office.
Should the case go to trial, a jury would have to decide under which definition of involuntary manslaughter Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were guilty. For the first count of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors must prove “underlying negligence,” while the second count, involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, “requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death,” the district attorney’s office said.
Both counts are fourth-degree felonies punishable by up to 18 months in jail, however, a firearm enhancement on the second charge could carry a mandatory sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors said.
Souza reportedly told investigators that Baldwin was sitting in a pew in the area’s church practicing his cross draw, facing the camera and crew and pointing the revolver toward the camera lens, when the shooting occurred, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Halls had handed the gun to Baldwin while proclaiming “cold gun,” to let the crew know a gun with no live rounds was being used, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Hutchins was killed by a live round inside the gun, authorities said.
Questions have surrounded how live ammunition made it onto the set and into the prop gun and whether proper safety precautions were taken by crew members.
Halls reportedly told investigators that he didn’t know there were any live rounds in the gun when he gave it to Baldwin, according to a search warrant affidavit.
The attorney for “Rust” armorer Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of guns and ammunition on the set, has previously said that his client had no idea where the live rounds came from and was not in the church where the rehearsal was taking place.
Her attorney, Jason Bowles, has alleged that Gutierrez-Reed was not called inside the church to inspect the weapons before they were brought out and that Baldwin did not accept her offer to train him on the cross draw, a “dangerous” method of carrying a handgun that started in the Old West.
“Hannah is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident,” Bowles said in a statement following the announcement of charges. “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.”
“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. It’s that simple,” Reeb said in a statement. “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.”
Longtime Hollywood armorer Thell Reed, the father of Gutierrez-Reed, reportedly told investigators that ammunition once in his possession “may match the ammunition found on the set of Rust,” according to an affidavit for a search warrant executed last year.
The warrant authorized the search of an Albuquerque prop house, PDQ Arm and Prop LLC, owned by Seth Kenney. Kenney reportedly told detectives that he was hired to supply “Rust” with guns, as well as dummy rounds and blanks, according to the search warrant affidavit.
Reed told investigators that he worked with Kenney on a set several weeks before the “Rust” shooting occurred, and that Kenney allegedly took “an ammo can” containing live rounds back with him to New Mexico, according to the affidavit.
Kenney has denied providing live ammunition to the set.
“It’s not a possibility that they came from PDQ or from myself personally,” Kenney told ABC News days after the shooting. “When we send dummy rounds out, they get individually rattle tested before they get sent out.”
Baldwin thought charges ‘highly unlikely’
Baldwin previously said he didn’t believe he would face any criminal charges in the accident.
“I’ve been told by people who are in the know, in terms of even inside the state, that it’s highly unlikely that I would be charged with anything criminally,” he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in a interview weeks after the shooting.
Baldwin said in the interview and consistently that he did not pull the trigger on the gun, a claim countered by investigators, who said the gun could not have fired without the trigger being pulled.
Carmack-Altwies said in an interview with ABC News that Baldwin was charged because he was one with the gun and pulled the trigger. “The trigger had to be pulled, Alec is wrong,” she said.
The district attorney’s announcement comes after the family of Hutchins reached a settlement in its wrongful death lawsuit against the film’s producers, including Baldwin and Rust Movie Productions, LLC, in October.
Carmack-Altweis’ office had said that the settlement would have “no impact” on her decision to file charges.
The incident has also led to several lawsuits, including one filed by Baldwin alleging negligence of his crew members.
“Rust” is slated to resume filming in January with all of the principal actors and Souza back as director. It’s unclear if the pending charges will affect production.
ABC News’ Aaron Katersky, Doug Lantz, Alyssa Pone and Robert Zepeda contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.