Charges Against Baldwin to be Dropped

Special prosecutors in ‘Rust’ movie-set shooting say new facts require more time

Alec Baldwin may not see his day in court in Santa Fe after all.

Special prosecutors who took over the involuntary manslaughter charges against the actor after an on-set fatal shooting said Thursday they plan to dismiss the case, but that the case might not be done for good.

“Over the last few days and in preparation for the May 3, 2023, preliminary hearing, new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis in the case against Alexander “Alec” Rae Baldwin, III. Consequently, we cannot proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form,” reads a statement from special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis. “We therefore will be dismissing the involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr. Baldwin to conduct further investigation. This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled. Our follow-up investigation will remain active and on-going.”

The state’s Administrative Office of the Courts late Thursday announced a status conference scheduled for Friday afternoon and set to be live streamed to the New Mexico Courts YouTube channel, where more details are expected to emerge. Meanwhile, charges against set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed remain unchanged, special prosecutors said.

“We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,” Baldwin’s attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro said in a statement released to the Associated Press.

Baldwin has never appeared in person in Santa Fe’s courts, though his lawyers have appeared in numerous video hearings. He had already waived his own appearance at the preliminary hearing that had been scheduled to begin May 3. No new documents had been filed in the case when the court clerk’s office closed as of 5 pm Thursday night.

Baldwin and his attorneys have argued since early in the case that the shooting on the set of the Western movie Rust was accidental. The actor, who was also a producer on the production, has said he believed a revolver being used as a prop was loaded with blanks and was rehearsing a scene inside a church set on the Bonanza Creek movie ranch on Oct. 21, 2021.

He brandished the gun and pointed it toward cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who stood behind her camera when the bullet struck her. Hutchins died and director Joel Souza suffered a wound. Baldwin told police and a prime-time television interviewer that he had not pulled the gun’s trigger; an FBI analysis later indicated the trigger had to have been pulled.

The question of how a live round ended up on set has gone largely unanswered. In December 2021, Carmack-Altwies’ office secured a search warrant for the film’s weapons supplier in Albuquerque, where police said the supplier admitted it’s possible he gave reloaded live rounds to the production in error. Crew members also reported live rounds had been fired near the set during off hours.

The case has taken a complex trajectory. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s department turned over the results of its investigation to First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies in April 2022, six months after the shooting. Another nine months passed before she announced in January that charges would be filed against both Baldwin and Hannah Guiterrez-Reed, employed as the set armorer for the production. In late February, the DA had dropped the “firearm enhancement” part of the case after Baldwin’s attorneys pointed out the state law enabling that sentencing provision had not been adopted at the time of the shooting.

Morrissey and Lewis began work on the case and Carmack-Altwies announced she would step back on March 29 after a district judge told the DA state law prevented her from both contracting out the case and keeping control over it. Carmack-Altwies first appointed Andrea Reeb as special prosecutor in August 2022 and said she would remain involved in the case, but Reeb’s subsequent election to the state legislature raised alarm with Baldwin’s attorneys.

Less than 10 days after The New York Times published emails between Reeb and Carmack-Altwies suggesting Reeb was hoping the case would help her campaign, the southern New Mexico lawmaker stepped down from the case. First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer later ruled that Carmack-Altwies could either prosecute the case herself or appoint another special prosecutor, but not both.

Carmack-Altwies opted to appoint Morrissey as the special prosecutor, which the DA cited Thursday as a reason she would not speak to SFR about the charges being dropped.

The case seemed to be moving along as of last week when Marlow-Sommer gave both sides deadlines for various filings and prosecutors filed a 35-name witness list.

Earlier this week, District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid approved the terms of a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Hutchins’ family against a list of producers including Baldwin. Matthew Hutchins, husband of the late cinematographer, is serving as producer as the resumes shooting in Montana.

Two weeks ago, Rust Assistant Director David Halls pleaded no contest to negligent use of a deadly weapon under a plea agreement. Immediately before the shooting, Halls is alleged to have handed the gun to Baldwin while he said “cold gun,” an industry term indicating it contained no ammunition.

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