Judge OKs 'Rust' producers' settlement with slain cinematographer's family

Judge OKs 'Rust' producers' settlement with slain cinematographer's family
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A New Mexico judge on Thursday approved a settlement agreement between the family of slain cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the producers of the troubled western "Rust," including Alec Baldwin.

Hutchins' immediate family members — her husband, Matthew Hutchins, and son, Andros Hutchins — last year filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, alleging Baldwin and other producers acted recklessly, contributing to her being fatally shot in October 2021 on the "Rust" set near Santa Fe, N.M.

The family blamed cost-cutting measures, including the hiring of inexperienced crew members, and the disregarding of safety concerns expressed earlier by camera crew operators who ultimately walked off the job.

Last fall, the two sides reached an agreement to resolve the civil lawsuit, pending court approval.

Financial details have not been made public.

The settlement was structured, in part, to compensate Hutchins' son, who was 9 when his mother died. Thus, information about the proceedings has been kept confidential. The court appointed a guardian ad litem to serve as a legal advocate for the boy. The guardian filed a report under seal.

As part of the settlement agreement, Hutchins' widower, Matthew, became an executive producer on the western film, which recently resumed production in Montana.

The judge's stipulated order said that a portion of the settlement would be set aside for Hutchins' son. His portion of the settlement will be distributed to him when he reaches the ages of 18 and 22, the judge's order said.

"The settlement ... is fair, appropriate, and in the best interests of Andros Hutchins, a minor, protected person," District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid wrote in his order.

Read more: 'Rust' criminal probe will continue, D.A. says, after Alec Baldwin settles lawsuit with family of cinematographer killed

The settlement's approval closes one prong of the fallout from the “Rust” tragedy, which shook the industry and raised fresh questions about safety on film sets.

In a statement last fall, Matthew Hutchins said: "All of us believe Halyna's death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna's final work."

His statement complicated the work of the New Mexico district attorney, who at the time was starting to build a criminal case against Baldwin and others involved in the tragic accident. Baldwin in late January was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, but much of the criminal case has since collapsed.

Special prosecutors who had replaced the district attorney decided in late April to drop criminal charges against Baldwin. The development came after prosecutors said they received new information in the case — that Baldwin’s prop gun had been modified before being delivered to the low-budget western in October 2021.

Baldwin has long maintained that he did not pull the trigger when Hutchins, 42, was shot during a rehearsal on a sprawling ranch outside Santa Fe. Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw maneuver with his replica vintage gun when it fired, striking Hutchins in the chest at close range.

The film’s director, Joel Souza, also was wounded but recovered.

Read more: 'Rust' to resume filming in spring with new cinematographer and documentary, producers say

Prosecutors earlier this year entered into a plea deal with the film's assistant director, David Halls, who had handed the weapon to Baldwin, declaring it "cold," meaning that it did not contain ammunition. In March, Halls pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and received a suspended six-month sentence.

The armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, still faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.