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Alec Baldwin pleads not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in ‘Rust’ shooting

Alec Baldwin on the “Rust” set immediately following the shooting of Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza. (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office/TNS)
February 02, 2024

Actor Alec Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge in the accidental fatal shooting of the “Rust” movie cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and waived his right to an arraignment hearing.

A New Mexico grand jury indicted Baldwin earlier this month, finding there was sufficient evidence to charge him in the death of Hutchins during filming of the western on Oct. 21, 2021. Grand jurors determined that Baldwin should face an involuntary manslaughter charge because he allegedly acted negligently on the movie set south of Santa Fe, according to the indictment.

If convicted of the charge, a fourth-degree felony, Baldwin could serve up to 18 months in prison, according to New Mexico law.

In new court documents, released Wednesday, Baldwin consented to the case proceeding without an arraignment. He electronically signed a statement saying, “I plea NOT GUILTY to all of the charges in the complaint or citation.”

Baldwin has long maintained that he didn’t pull the trigger, only that he pulled back the hammer on the Pietta revolver, a replica of a vintage 1880s gun, that fired the fatal shot. Baldwin was handed the gun by the film’s assistant director and was told that it was “cold,” meaning it had no ammunition. However, the gun contained five so-called dummy rounds and one live bullet.

Weapons experts, including FBI analysts, have consistently said that the gun could not have fired unless Baldwin pulled the trigger.

The prosecution of Baldwin has been fraught. A year ago, prosecutors charged him with involuntary manslaughter but those charges were dropped last spring when a new special prosecutor joined the case. She was given information that the gun might have been modified before being delivered to the set, making it more prone to misfires.

But testing over the summer showed that the gun likely worked as designed, and the special prosecutor, Kari T. Morrissey, announced late last year that she would present her case to a grand jury.

Hollywood’s performers union SAG-AFTRA last week issued a statement in support of Baldwin, who is famous for his roles in “30 Rock,” “It’s Complicated” and “The Hunt for Red October” and for impersonating former President Donald Trump on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” SAG-AFTRA said that it is not an actor’s job to be a firearms expert.

A judge has released Baldwin on his own recognizance.

The release order stipulated that the 65-year-old actor must obey all laws. He cannot possess any firearms or dangerous weapons and is barred from drinking or using illegal substances. In addition, Baldwin must not discuss the “Rust” evidence or prosecution with witnesses in the case. He cannot leave the U.S. without a judge’s permission.

It’s been more than two years since Baldwin accidentally shot Hutchins and director Joel Souza during an unscheduled rehearsal in an old western church at Bonanza Creek Ranch, a popular high desert movie location south of Santa Fe. Hutchins died that afternoon, and Souza, who was shot in the shoulder, recovered.

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. Her case goes to trial next month. She has pleaded not guilty.


© 2024 Los Angeles Times

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