Alec Baldwin formally charged in 'Rust' shooting as prosecutors say he was 'distracted' during gun training, 'reckless' on set
More than one year after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed filming Rust, star and producer Alec Baldwin has been criminally charged in connection to the fatal shooting. A probable cause statement filed gives more insight into why prosecutors believe the actor is culpable, claiming he had a reckless disregard for safety on set. The document alleges he was "distracted" when he did attend a firearms training session.
Prosecutors filed formal charges on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after the district attorney's office announced Alec faced two counts of involuntary manslaughter. The Emmy-winning actor isn't the only person authorities believe is responsible for the terrible accident. Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of handling weapons on set of the Western, was also charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
"Today we have taken another important step in securing justice for Halyna Hutchins," New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement on Tuesday. "In New Mexico, no one is above the law and justice will be served."
Negligent use of a deadly weapon charges were also filed against David Halls, the film's first assistant director, who allegedly handed the gun to Baldwin and declared it "cold," meaning there was no live ammunition. Halls pleaded no contest and has entered into a plea agreement that is pending approval.
Tuesday's filing included a statement of probable cause. Police believe the 30 Rock star "displayed very inconsistent accounts of what happened during the incident," citing interviews they conducted as well as statements the actor made in the media.
Alec has maintained he did not pull the trigger. But investigators — and the FBI — found the gun could not "accidentally fire." For the weapon to fire, the trigger had to have been pressed. Photo and video evidence from rehearsals "clearly show" Alec "multiple times with his finger inside of the trigger guard and on the trigger, while manipulating the hammer and while drawing, pointing, and holstering the revolver."
The document claims Alec was careless when it came to gun safety, noting he "was not present for required firearms training" prior to filming. When he did show up for training, Alec allegedly only completed 30 minutes of the one hour session as he "was distracted and talking on his cell phone to his family" according to Gutierrez-Reed's deposition.
Investigators determined that when Alec was rehearsing, the scene "did not require the weapon to be fired." A replica gun should be used as no firing of blanks is required.
"[Alec] directly pointed a firearm at Hutchins and Souza. Whether guided by her directions or not, Baldwin knew the first rule of gun safety is never point a gun at someone you don't intend on shooting. In addition, always assume a gun is loaded. Had Baldwin performed the required safety checks with the armorer ... this tragedy would not have occurred," the document claims.
The probable cause statement points to the actor's decades-long experience in the film industry and said he showed "reckless deviation" from standard safety protocols on set. The document outlines multiple ways Baldwin failed as the film's lead producer, too, as there were two "negligent discharge" incidents before the fatal incident.
Baldwin was photographed in New York City earlier Tuesday. Before charges were filed, his wife, Hilaria Baldwin, spoke out on social media. Hilaria, who gave birth to the couple's seventh child in September, once again thanked fans and offered public support for her husband.
"I hope you understand how much your support and kindness to Alec and our children mean. Thank you for being our community and our village. You are helping us to be stronger parents and partners during this unimaginable time, stemming from such heartbreaking tragedy," she wrote, adding: "Alec, we love you and we are here for you."
The actor and Gutierrez-Reed are charged in the alternative, meaning if a jury decides either is guilty, the panel then must determine which definition of involuntary manslaughter applies. A jury could also find them not guilty.
To be found guilty of the first charge, involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors must prove there was underlying negligence. The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. The latter includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, because of the weapon involved. Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed face anywhere from zero to five years behind bars.
Lawyers for Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed previously said they will fight the charges.
"This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins's tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set," the actor's attorney, Luke Nikas of Quinn Emanuel, previously told Yahoo Entertainment. "He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win."
Gutierrez-Reed's lawyers Jason Bowles and Todd J. Bullion released the following statement to Yahoo after charges were filed on Tuesday:
The filed probable cause statement reveals that the district attorney has completely misunderstood the facts and has reached the wrong conclusions. Hannah pleaded to provide more firearms training. She was denied and brushed aside. Hannah asked to be able to perform her armorer duties more for safety reasons. She was told by production to focus on props. Hannah asked Halls if they could us a plastic gun for the rehearsal scene and he said no, wanting a “real gun.” Hannah asked to be called back into the church if Baldwin was going to use the gun at all and Halls failed to do that. Yet the district attorney has given Halls a 6 month probation misdemeanor and charged Hannah and Baldwin with felony offenses carrying at least 5 years in prison. The tragedy of this is had Hannah just been called back into the church by Halls, she would have performed the inspection and prevented this tragedy. We will fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty.