‘Rust’ Trial: DA Suffers Another Setback as Judge Denies Replacement for Special Prosecutor

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office

The Santa Fe District Attorney’s office has suffered another blow to its “Rust” case against Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, as a judge denied its request to replace the recently departed Andrea Reeb with a new special prosecutor.

At a virtual hearing on Monday, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies argued that a new special prosecutor was necessary as her office was suffering from staffing shortages despite receiving $360,000 from the New Mexico state legislature earmarked specifically for forensic investigation and outside counsel related to the “Rust” case, in which Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in relation to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

“We need extra manpower on this case. All the money in the world doesn’t help prosecute a case if we can’t find the bodies in our office,” Carmack-Altwies argued, saying that only 15 of her 24 assistant DA spots are currently filled. “We have to be able to look outside of our offices in order to find people. That is our good cause that we do not have the sufficient manpower to fully prosecute this by ourselves. Bringing on a special prosecutor helps with that by taking on some of the burden of prosecution.”

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That request was denied by Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, who said that the DA’s office had to either prosecute the “Rust” case itself or delegate it to a special prosecutor and recuse itself completely from the case.

“You cannot use [a special prosecutor] unless you’re not going to prosecute,” the judge said. You may not co-counsel …you stay the course and not use a special prosecutor and prosecuted on your own. It’s an either or.”

Last year, Carmack-Altwies hired Andrea Reeb as a special prosecutor, but Reeb stepped down earlier this month after her position on the case was challenged by Baldwin’s attorneys, who argued that the state constitution barred her from prosecuting the case as Reeb had just been elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives.

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Reeb also was criticized for filing enhancement charges against Baldwin, which could have raised his maximum potential prison sentence if convicted from 18 months to five years but was added to the state’s penal code after Hutchins’ death occurred and therefore could not be applied. The enhancement charge was dropped last month.

Reeb stepped down from the case on March 14, saying that she did not want her decisions as prosecutor to distract from the case. Last week, the New York Times uncovered emails in which Reeb asked Carmack-Altwies if she could publicly announce her hiring as special prosecutor to help give her a boost in her state legislature election.

Carmack-Altwies will now have very limited time to determine how the prosecution will carry this case forward, as pretrial hearings for the “Rust” case start on May 3.

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