Cause Célebrè

As she files charges in the “Rust” case, DA Mary Carmack-Altwies says her only concern is justice for Halyna Hutchins

Announcing on Jan. 19 her decision to file charges in the film-set shooting death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins hurled First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies into the international spotlight. Those charges include two counts of involuntary manslaughter—fourth-degree felonies—against both the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez (previously called Gutierrez-Reed), and, notably, the film’s actor and producer: Alec Baldwin.

Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb say Gutierrez, Baldwin and Rust’s assistant director, David Halls—who accepted a plea deal on the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon—played roles in the Oct. 21, 2021 shooting that killed Hutchins, then a 42-year-old mother of a 9-year-old son.

SFR spoke with Carmack-Altwies by phone shortly before she officially filed those charges Jan. 31 in the First Judicial District, along with a 10-page probable cause statement extensively detailing the ways in which Baldwin allegedly acted with “reckless” and “willful” disregard for the safety of others. The interview has been edited for concision and clarity.

SFR: The Wall Street Journal recently published a story about you that said you came into office vowing to target criminals, increase crime diversion programs, address a rape kit backlog and crack down on gun crimes and now you’re going to be most known as the DA who prosecuted Alec Baldwin. Do you think that’s true?

Mary Carmack-Altwies: I hope not. I hope what I’m known for is that I changed this office and put it on a better footing and made this community safer, and also implemented some of the criminal justice reforms that I think are important. That said, obviously this case is getting a lot of publicity. But what I want known out of this case is that I went after justice for Halyna Hutchins and I treated everyone the same under the law.

Has this case made it harder for you to focus on those other issues?

No, I don’t think so. It’s part of my job to have divided attention and to be able to focus on a lot of different things. I have been in office now for two years and I’ve got a really excellent team in place that is handling a lot of those issues and concerns that I came into office pledging to do something about. This case I’m focusing on kind of falls squarely within some of my pledges, which was we are going to take gun crime seriously. It’s obviously not a typical gun crime case, but it does emphasize that we need to have safe handling of firearms.

You’ve mentioned several times there shouldn’t be exceptions for celebrities. Are you also saying film set protocols shouldn’t be treated differently than any other type of setting?

I think it’s important we don’t treat celebrities any differently than someone else that has violated the law. And I’ve also emphasized I know this was unintentional, but just because it was unintentional doesn’t mean it also wasn’t recklessness that rises to the level of criminality. Looking at the facts and the evidence of this case, it really matches our statutes against safe handling of firearms really well.

So when SAG AFTRA says, ‘Hey this decision to charge an actor is wrong and uninformed about how Hollywood works,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care how Hollywood works.’

I don’t care how Hollywood works because a person died. If it was just a misfire of a blank, maybe we would be in a different position, but a person died. People have to take responsibility and accountability for what happened on that set. And what happened was Halyna Hutchins lost her life.

I also want to emphasize I’m not charging Alec Baldwin just because he’s an actor. He was an actor and a producer on that set and had an affirmative duty to make sure that not only was the gun safe, but that the other people handling the guns were safe, and that the set was safe. And we know that wasn’t the case.

So this is not just a chain of custody decision? It’s not just about who touched the gun?


Then why aren’t other Rust producers being charged?

It’s not just a chain of custody, but [the charges] depend on it pretty heavily. Under our involuntary manslaughter statute, we didn’t think it was going to be possible to show that the other producers had direct knowledge or had the duty to look at that gun that day. So, it’s the actor plus producer, not just actor and not just producer

Why isn’t director Joel Souza’s [gun-shot] injury a piece of that?

Because under New Mexico statutes, an aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, which is what this would be, requires intent. And since we’ve already established this was an unintentional crime, we can’t charge for what happened to him.


I know it’s a strange quirk but that’s why we can’t charge for Mr. Souza.

You told the LA Times you struggled over whether you were going to charge at all.

Of course, we struggled. I think you struggle in every single case to make sure you get it right, that you match the facts and the evidence to the statutes as they are written. After looking at this and consulting with several attorneys, not only within our office but other DAs around the state, I came to the conclusion with our team that this was the right thing to do.

Have you felt pressured by the film industry or by the political nature of the gun debate in this case?

I haven’t felt pressured one way or another. I’m just trying to do the right thing. I’ve received lots of letters, emails, phone calls, obviously, but that doesn’t affect what I do. I’m a prosecutor, and so I can’t be affected by anything but the law, ethically. And if I had decided there wasn’t probable cause to charge anyone, I wouldn’t have.

The coverage of this case has been extensive, but has anything been missing you’d want people to know?

It’s not so much missing, but the sensationalism of charging a celebrity is really overshadowing Halyna Hutchins, and that is the part of all the coverage that bothers me. This is about a victim. I am a victim-centered prosecutor. I have spoken with Matthew Hutchins: He is fully behind this prosecution because he wants justice for his wife as well. And that’s what this is about. It’s not about politics or guns or pressure or anything like that. It’s about Halyna Hutchins.

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