Why Prosecutors in the “Rust” Shooting Case Rescinded a Lenient Plea Deal They Offered Alec Baldwin Last Year

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The actor, who faces 18 months in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter, lost the chance to plead to a misdemeanor and avoid potential time behind bars

John Lamparski/Getty Alec Baldwin in 2023
John Lamparski/Getty Alec Baldwin in 2023

Alec Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison if he’s found guilty of involuntary manslaughter at his July trial for his role in the accidental shooting death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western movie in 2021.

But according to recent court documents filed by the special prosecutors in the case, they offered the actor, 66 — who was holding the prop gun that accidentally contained live ammunition when it discharged, killing Hutchins — the chance to plea to a misdemeanor months before a grand jury indicted him on a felony manslaughter charge in January. (Baldwin has insisted he never pulled the trigger and didn’t know the gun contained live rounds.)

The offer, which was presented to Baldwin’s legal team last October, included six months of unsupervised probation, a $500 fine, 24 hours of community service and a firearms safety class.

They are the same terms Rust assistant director Dave Halls accepted in 2023. (Movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of the weapons on set, was indicted in 2023 and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in March. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison on April 15.)

But before Baldwin could accept the terms, the prosecutors rescinded their offer.

Courtesy of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office Alec Baldwin on the set of 'Rust'
Courtesy of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office Alec Baldwin on the set of 'Rust'

Special prosecutors Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis outlined what happened in their April 5 response to Baldwin’s attorneys’ motion to have his indictment dismissed.

“On October 5, 2023, the special prosecutors extended a plea offer to Mr. Baldwin as confidential and privileged plea negotiations and gave Mr. Baldwin until October 27, 2023 to accept the offer or the case would proceed to grand jury,” they wrote.

“Counsel for the State received no response at all — not even an email from defense counsel stating that they received the offer and would discuss it with their client,” they continued.

Related: Everything to Know About the Rust Shooting Case and Alec Baldwin's Upcoming Trial

Nevertheless, they extended the deadline for Baldwin, but then learned that one of Baldwin’s attorneys “provided all the details of the presumed confidential and privileged plea offer to a reporter with NBC News in New York,” they wrote. (PEOPLE reached out to NBC News and Baldwin's attorneys for comment, but did not immediately hear back.)

“After determining that the reporter did indeed have all the details of the plea offer extended to Mr. Baldwin, undersigned counsel received additional information that Mr. Baldwin and his counsel were working with the media to generate a campaign designed to deflect attention away from any future plea hearing to protect Mr. Baldwin’s public image,” the prosecutors wrote.

Mat Hayward/Getty Halyna Hutchins
Mat Hayward/Getty Halyna Hutchins

They also said they received information Baldwin was considering accepting the plea offer but also intended to file a civil complaint against the State of New Mexico and the former prosecutors in the case, who originally indicted the actor in January 2023 at the same time they also indicted Gutierrez-Reed and Halls.

The original prosecutors resigned from the case in March 2023, a month before Morrissey and Lewis, who took over, announced they were dropping charges against Baldwin citing new information in the case.

They said at the time they reserved the right to recharge Baldwin. After further testing of the gun, experts concluded that summer Baldwin must have pulled the trigger, contrary to what the actor has claimed. With that information, Morrissey and Lewis proceeded with the case against him.

Related: Maximum Sentence for Rust Armorer Should Be a ‘Wake-Up Call’ for Alec Baldwin Ahead of Trial: Expert (Exclusive)

Morrissey and Lewis claimed Baldwin planned to file “the frivolous lawsuit” against the State of New Mexico and the former prosecutors “on the same day as the possible future plea hearing” to “direct attention away” from it.

<p>Eddie Moore-Pool/Getty</p> Hannah Gutierrez-Reed in court on April 15

Eddie Moore-Pool/Getty

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed in court on April 15

The special prosecutors also claimed in the court filing that Baldwin was allegedly “pressuring material witnesses in the case against him to submit to interviews” for a documentary he’s making about Hutchins.

For the prosecutors, that was the final straw. “It was at this point that the plea offer was rescinded, and the case was scheduled for grand jury,” they wrote.

Baldwin was indicted again in January and heads to trial in July. Mary Marlowe Sommer, the judge who oversaw Gutierrez-Reed’s trial and sentenced her to the maximum of 18 months, is also overseeing Baldwin’s trial.

Legal expert Emily D. Baker, a lawyer and former L.A. Deputy District Attorney, tells PEOPLE Baldwin’s legal team may ask for another plea deal after seeing Gutierrez-Reed’s fate.

"I'll be curious if Baldwin's attorneys want to revive that plea negotiation,” says Baker, who is not involved with the case. “The defense can always ask. I don't know if the prosecution's inclined to give them a misdemeanor again, but they can ask.”

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