Alec Baldwin pleads not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges in ‘Rust’ shooting case
Los Angeles Times February 24, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — Alec Baldwin on Thursday pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges for the accidental fatal shooting of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and agreed to release conditions that would allow him to complete the film.
The actor, in a court filing, waived his right to make his first court appearance, which was expected to take place Friday in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Baldwin agreed to conditions, including not consuming alcohol, not possessing weapons and only talking to witnesses for the purpose of completing the “Rust” movie. The witness lists filed with the court include figures such as director Joel Souza, who is set to resume his duties on the film when production gets back up in Montana.
New Mexico 1st Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer approved the conditions.
“Defendant is permitted to have contact with potential witnesses only in the capacity laid out herein: In connection with completing the ‘Rust’ movie (...) provided, however, that defendant is not permitted to discuss the accident at issue,” the document said.
Neither Baldwin nor his attorneys had any immediate comment.
Baldwin and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, face involuntary manslaughter charges carrying a possible 18-month sentence. Friday’s scheduled appearances were among the first steps in the prosecution’s road to trial.
They were charged last month with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Oct. 21, 2021, death of Hutchins on the movie’s set south of Santa Fe.
A jury will decide between two involuntary manslaughter charges that the New Mexico prosecutors have brought against the pair.
The most serious charge initially would have included a “firearm enhancement” penalty that the state at first said carried a five-year mandatory prison term. However Baldwin won one battle in his favor, getting prosecutors to downgrade the penalties, dropping the firearm enhancement. Now the maximum Baldwin could now face is 18 months.
The actor’s attorneys argued that at the time of the shooting such an enhancement could only add three years if a gun was “brandished” with intent to injure. Moreover, the prosecutors had acknowledged the shooting was an accident, the attorneys said. The statute was later updated to increase the term to five years and removed the qualifier that there had to be an intent to injure.
Baldwin’s camp is also challenging the appointment of special prosecutor Andrea Reeb, alleging her role as a state legislator conflicts with her role in the case.
Earlier this month, the “Rust” production revealed plans to complete filming the movie at the Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana this spring. Previously, it revealed it added crew including a replacement cinematographer to its lineup. Baldwin and other lead actors are expected to resume production.
The production said no ammunition or weapons would be used in the shoot, and it added two safety officers to the crew.
The court has yet to set a preliminary hearing date where 1st Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Reeb will present their case to the judge to decide if there is probable cause to move forward with a trial. Preliminary hearings are typically scheduled within 60 days of charges being filed.
Gutierrez Reed is scheduled to make her first appearance Friday.
David Halls, the assistant director of the low-budget Western, waived his right to a first appearance, having accepted a plea deal last month. Halls agreeing to plead no contest to a misdemeanor count of negligent use of a deadly weapon and received a suspended six-month sentence of unsupervised probation, according to documents viewed by the Los Angeles Times. Should he be called, Halls is required to testify in preliminary court hearings this spring or at trial.
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