Alec Baldwin, gun handler to be charged with shooting ‘Rust’

New Mexico prosecutors said they are filing criminal charges against actor Alec Baldwin and the gun maker of the low-budget western “Rust,” after the fatal shooting of the film’s cinematographer.

The accusations mark a dramatic culmination of more than a year of speculation about who will be held accountable for the death of cinematographer Helena Hutchins, a rising star in the film industry. Hutchins was shot in the chest on October 21, 2021, when she was rehearsing for a scene with Baldwin and the film’s director, Joel Sousa, who was injured.

Baldwin is expected to be loaded With two counts of manslaughter in Hutchins’ death.

Prosecutors also plan to file manslaughter charges against arms dealer Hana Gutierrez Reed, who loaded the gun.

The district attorney said she plans to give jurors two options for charges. If convicted under the lesser charge, Baldwin or Gutierrez will face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. The prosecutor will also ask the jury to consider a heavier sentence, which carries a mandatory penalty of five years in prison, because the alleged offense involved the use of a firearm.

the The film’s assistant director, David Holes, who investigators said gave the loaded handgun to Baldwin shortly before a rehearsal at an old log church on Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, reached a plea agreement of negligent misdemeanor use of a deadly weapon.

The first judicial district of New Mexico. came. Mary Carmack Altoys announced the charges Thursday, About 15 months after Baldwin allegedly fired the live round from his backup revolver, unaware that the .45 Colt revolver contained live ammunition. Actual lead is banned from movie sets; However, investigators later found several other bullets mixed in with inert dummy rounds.

“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws in the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ crew,” said Carmack-Altoys. “In my custody, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”

Attorney Brian J.

Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys, Jason Bowles and Todd J. Bullion, called the investigation “flawed” and said they “intend to uncover the whole truth, and believe Hannah will be acquitted of any wrongdoing by a jury.”

A series of gaffes in the low-budget production led to the shooting, sparking calls in Hollywood for producers to improve safety conditions on sets.

Baldwin was one of the producers of “Rust”. The 64-year-old Hollywood star — who has won acclaim for his performances on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” as well as films like “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Hunt for Red October” — can contend with Now try a criminal trial or accept a plea bargain.

“This decision distorts the tragic death of Halena Hutchins and represents an appalling miscarriage of justice,” said Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nicas of Queen Emmanuel, adding that his client “relied on the professionals he was working with, who assured him that the gun was not there.” Live tours. We will fight these accusations, and we will prevail.”

The decision comes three months after Baldwin and the film’s other producers entered into a proposed settlement agreement with the Hutchins family to end a wrongful civil lawsuit the family filed early last year. The cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, described his wife’s death as a “terrible accident”.

Under the proposed deal, production on the film could resume this year.

Baldwin has always maintained his innocence, saying in televised interviews that the safety of the gun was not his responsibility and that he never pulled the trigger.

However, reports by FBI analysts in Virginia cast doubt on that claim, saying that the vintage Colt .45 clone “functions normally when tested in the lab.”

The FBI report also indicated that in order to fire the pistol, the trigger would have been pulled.

“This posed a problem for Baldwin because he insisted he didn’t pull the trigger,” said Beverly Hills-based entertainment attorney Mitra Ahurayan.

Baldwin blamed Gutierrez Reed and Halls, saying they did not do their jobs. The gunsmith, master of ownership, and assistant manager are usually responsible for gun safety.

“My entire career, without incident, I have relied on the safety experts [on set] in 2022 at the Boulder International Film Festival, Baldwin said. “And [then,] This may have happened.”

Experts said that defense may fall short.

Alec Baldwin outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office after filming on the set of the movie “Rust” on October 21, 2021.

(Jim Weber / Associated Press)

“No matter what the practice may be in the entertainment industry, no matter what protocols there are on the Hollywood sets, it’s not the law,” said Ahorayan. The gun was in his hands. And if there’s any possibility that you might be handling something that could hurt someone, then you have an obligation to handle it safely.”

“Everyone in that chain of custody has some responsibility,” said Joshua Kastenberg, a law professor at the University of New Mexico. “The defense of ‘This is not my job’ does not fly.”

Filming for “Rust”, which had a budget of $ 7 million, was supposed to stretch 21 days – an ambitious schedule for a short clip, according to film experts.

Baldwin was playing a grizzled outlaw, Harland Rost, who is on the run with his grandson, who accidentally kills a rancher in Kansas in the 1880s.

After lunch that fateful day, Sousa and Hutchins lined camera angles as Baldwin practiced the cross-draw maneuver inside the old log church at Bonanza Creek Ranch, a popular movie production location.

Allegedly seated in a makeshift seat four feet from Hutchins and Sousa, Baldwin pulled a Pietta Colt .45 revolver from its holster and pointed it in the direction of the camera. The gun went off. Hutchins was standing next to the camera, and Souza was behind her.

Halls—who was the safety officer for “Rust” on set—told Baldwin that the gun was “cold,” meaning it contained no live ammunition, according to sheriff’s records.

A man and his adult daughter are standing outside on a movie set with guns and other guns at their feet.

Captures gunsmith Thel Reid and his daughter Hannah Gutierrez Reid, who was the gunsmith in “Rust,” together on a photo set.

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The weapon contained at least one bullet and dummy shot, and contained no gunpowder. These bullets are inert but look almost identical to a real bullet when the camera peers down the barrel of the gun.

If the rounds were carefully examined, Gutierrez-Reed, Holes, or others must have noticed that at least one lacked the small hole or indentation that distinguishes so-called dummies from actual bullets.

They had also noted that the live round did not make the signature clanking sound that reveals there is only BB—not gunpowder—inside.

Gutierrez Reid previously admitted that she picked up the gun but did not realize the actual bullets were contained in a new box of ammunition that arrived that morning.

She later told sheriff detectives that although she checked Baldwin’s gun before the unscheduled exercise in the log church, she “didn’t check much after lunch” because the gun was locked in a safe during the crew’s lunch break.

Many of the camera crew had walked off the job hours before the fatal shooting after complaining to the producers about an alleged lack of concern for safety and refusing to pay cameramen for nearby accommodation.

Tensions were sparked by two accidental gun firings less than a week before Hutchins’ death, including when Sarah Zachary, the real estate sheriff, accidentally fired a gun for an actor to use, even though she was not injured in the incident.

In addition, disagreements arose within the film’s small props crew over workload issues.

Gutierrez-Reed admitted that she was struggling to perform two jobs – shields and props assistant. In addition to serving as an armorer in charge of rifles and gun safety, Zachary was supposed to assist with other props. In an exchange of text messages with production executives before the fatal shooting, Gutierrez-Reed protested her workload, saying it was too stressful.

Gutierrez was chastised by a production manager for not paying enough attention to her props role.

“Since we started, I’ve had a lot of days where my job has to focus solely on guns and everyone’s safety,” Gutierrez-Reid responded in an October 14, 2021 email seen by The Times.

Gutierrez Reed is the daughter of Thel Reed, the legendary Hollywood gunsmith. Although she grew up visiting sets, Rust was her second film as a head designer.

The accident occurred on the twelfth day of filming the film, which is scheduled to be produced for a period of 21 days.

“There have been many breaks in the chain of responsibilities and if there have been any such breaks If individuals facing criminal charges had acted with more caution, Hourarian said, the tragedy could have been avoided.

The Times previously revealed a struggle to find qualified crew members to work on “Rust”.

The trial may be complicated by the case’s notoriety—most everyone in Santa Fe is familiar with the case, adding to the challenges of finding an impartial jury. Moreover, the defendants could present a spirited defence.

“This is a huge issue for a smaller population county,” said Kastenberg, the former district attorney. “Whenever you encounter a powerful entity—like a Hollywood star with massive media reach—you want to get it right and you don’t want to look like a fool.”

The media spotlight adds to the pressure Carmack Altoys and her office are facing.

Andrea Ripp, a former New Mexico district attorney who joined the case as a special prosecutor, told The Times that Baldwin’s high profile was not a factor.

“As far as his being an A-list actor in notoriety or popularity, he’s just another accuser to us under the law,” said Ripp.

Santa Fe County Sheriffs Adan Mendoza and Mary Carmack-Altois walk together outdoors near a building.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, left, and Dist. came. Mary Carmack-Altwis arrives at a press conference in October 2021 about the criminal investigation into the fatal shooting on the set of “Rust.”

(AFP/Getty Images)

“A DA wants to show his audience that they are not afraid to take a case, and that they will handle it ethically and properly,” Kastenberg said. This may become politicized. But as a DA, you can only press charges that are supported by evidence.”

In addition to the criminal cases, there are many civil negligence claims pending.

Two of the film crew inside the church when the shooting took place — lighting technician Serge Svetenoy, who was nearly hit by the bullet, and script supervisor Mamie Mitchell — sued.

Gutierrez Reed sued last year the gun supplier, Seth Kenney of PDQ Arm & Prop, alleging that he provided the group with an unspecified box of ammunition containing live rounds, which contributed to the fatal accident. Kenny said he did not provide live repertoire for the “Rust” set.

Hutchins was killed just as her career was beginning to take off in a largely male-dominated field. She graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015 and was named one of the rising stars of the American Cinematographer of the Year 2019.

The film’s producers denied responsibility for the tragedy.

In a filing with the New Mexico Department of Environment’s Office of Occupational Health and Safety, Rust Movie Productions LLC argued that the producers were not the designated employers.

This past April, the bureau imposed its maximum penalty, a $136,793 fine, on Rust Movie Productions, accusing production managers of “apparent indifference” to employee safety and disregard for safety procedures.

Rust Movie Productions is appealing the decision; A hearing on the matter is scheduled for April.

Meanwhile, producers hope to resume production of “Rust” this spring near Los Angeles.

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