Criminal charges against Alec Baldwin dropped in Rust film set shooting

Baldwin was pointing a pistol at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal in 2021 when the gun went off

Prosecutors in New Mexico have dropped criminal charges against the actor Alec Baldwin in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the western movie Rust, officials confirmed on Thursday.

Baldwin, 65, was pointing a Colt .45 pistol at Hutchins during a rehearsal in October 2021 when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding the director Joel Souza.

He had been charged in January with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with Hutchins’s death and the injury of Souza. The actor was accused of showing a “reckless” disregard for safety.

Baldwin has said the gun went off accidentally. He has repeatedly said he was informed by crew members that the gun was not loaded and has also insisted he did not pull the trigger. He has said he was told the revolver was a “cold gun”, an industry term meaning it was either unloaded or contained dummy rounds.

In February, Baldwin pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and had agreed to the court’s terms to finish filming the low-budget film, as well as a ban on using guns and consuming alcohol.

Prosecutors said on Thursday they will dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin, but that the office would investigate further and that the charges could be refiled. Charges remain against the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.

ABC News and CNN first reported on Thursday that New Mexico prosecutors had dropped charges against Baldwin.

Shortly after, Baldwin’s attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro said in a statement they were “pleased with the decision to dismiss the case”.

“We encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,” they added.

In February, the Santa Fe district attorney’s office announced it dropped the gun enhancement charge against Baldwin, which would have carried a five-year sentence.

That charge was also dropped against Gutierrez-Reed. She has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and has pleaded not guilty.

Investigators have not been able to determine how live rounds made it on set.

Baldwin’s lawyers and prosecutors had been discussing the charges ahead of a 3 May hearing, when a New Mexico judge was set to decide whether Baldwin should stand trial, according to a person familiar with the talks.

The news of the dropped charges come just weeks after Mary Carmack-Altwies, the New Mexico district attorney who charged Baldwin, stepped down from the case.

In a statement released by Carmack-Altwies’s spokesperson last month, Carmack-Altwies was said to have stepped aside in order to “focus on the broader public safety needs in New Mexico’s first judicial district”.

A few weeks prior to Carmack-Altwies stepping aside, another special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, stepped down after Baldwin’s attorneys argued it was unlawful for her to simultaneously serve as part of the state judiciary and legislature.

Also on Thursday, Baldwin and other cast members resumed filming the movie in Montana, according to the production company.

Baldwin settled a lawsuit in October with the cinematographer’s husband, Matt Hutchins, in a deal that made Hutchins an executive producer on the movie.

The first assistant director, Dave Halls, last month received a suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon. Prosecutors had said he was responsible for set safety.

Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer, has blamed the shooting on other factors, including possible sabotage, Baldwin’s lack of training, and a failure by Halls and Baldwin to ask her for extra checks. In a statement on Thursday, her lawyers, Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion, said: “We fully expect at the end of this process that Hannah will also be exonerated.”

Guardian staff and agencies

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