Alec Baldwin charged with involuntary manslaughter over death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins

Alec Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Ms Hutchins when the gun went off, ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reports

Actor Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter over the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust, the New Mexico District Attorney’s office has said.

Ms Hutchins died shortly after being injured by a gunshot during setup for a scene at the ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 21, 2021.

Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Ms Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and injuring the director, Joel Souza.

Both Baldwin and the film’s armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter over the death of Ms Hutchins on the film’s set.

Alec Baldwin stands in costume and speaks with investigators following the fatal shooting. Credit: Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office via AP, File

Assistant director David Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, the District Attorney’s office said. No charges will be filed specific to the non-fatal shooting of Mr Souza. “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,” District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said. “On my watch, no-one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with the two counts of manslaughter, meaning that a jury would decide not simply if they were guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they were guilty, the DA’s office said. The first charge can be referred to as involuntary manslaughter and requires proof of underlying negligence. This charge also includes the misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law. The second charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. Under New Mexico law, both charges are a fourth-degree felony and are punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 (£4,000) fine. The second charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, which makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.

“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,” said special prosecutor Andrea Reeb. “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.”

Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas of Quinn Emanuel, said: “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.”

Baldwin, who was also a producer on the film, has denied responsibility for the shooting and has sued crew members for negligence.

The actor - known for his roles in 30 Rock and The Hunt for Red October - maintains he was told the gun was safe. In his lawsuit, Baldwin said that while working on camera angles with Ms Hutchins during rehearsal for a scene, he pointed the gun in her direction and pulled back and released the hammer of the gun, which discharged. New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator determined the shooting was an accident following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports.

The film set of Rust at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe. Credit: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau has given the maximum fine against Rust Movie Productions.

Testimony had heard that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires of blank ammunition on set prior to the fatal shooting. Rust Movie Productions continues to challenge the basis of a $137,000 fine by regulators who say production managers on the set failed to follow standard industry protocols for firearms safety.

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