Alec Baldwin's attorneys ask special prosecutor to be removed from 'Rust' case

Feb. 7—Alec Baldwin's lawyers are seeking to have state Rep. Andrea Reeb disqualified as a special prosecutor in the criminal case tied to the 2021 fatal shooting on the set of the movie Rust, claiming the role conflicts with her position as a legislator.

Three lawyers representing the Hollywood actor and producer filed a motion Tuesday in state District Court requesting a judge disqualify Reeb based a clause in the state constitution they say bars individuals from simultaneously exercising powers in more than one of the three branches of government.

"Ms. Reeb's continued service as a special prosecutor in this case is unconstitutional," according to the motion filed Tuesday by attorneys Luke Nikas, John F. Bash and Heather LeBlanc. "The legal question is not a close one. She must be disqualified."

Nikas is based in New York; Bash in Austin, Texas; and LeBlanc in Albuquerque.

The motion cites Article III, Section 1 of the New Mexico Constitution.

The motion also quotes a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling contending the provision "articulates one of the cornerstones of democratic government that the accumulation of too much power within one branch poses a threat to liberty."

The state Board of Finance awarded the First Judicial District Attorney's Office more than $317,000 last fall after District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told officials she might need about $635,000 to prosecute defendants in the Rust case. Carmack-Altwies has asked the Legislature for an appropriation to make up the difference.

If Reeb were to continue acting as both special prosecutor and legislator, Baldwin's motion argues in part, Reeb could be in a position to make decisions about an appropriation funding her own salary in the case.

"Even if she recuses from votes on her own compensation, her clout with her colleagues on other matters could (wittingly or not) encourage them to maintain funding her position," the filing says.

The District Attorney's Office charged Baldwin and film set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed — who was tasked with maintaining firearms, ammunition and gun safety on the set — with involuntary manslaughter last month in connection with the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, which occurred during a rehearsal at the Bonanza Creek Ranch south of Santa Fe.

The bullet fired from a .45-caliber Colt revolver Baldwin wielded during the scene passed through Hutchins' body and also wounded director Joel Souza.

Carmack-Altwies announced in August she had hired Reeb — a Clovis Republican who retired last spring as district attorney in the 9th Judicial District — to help work on the Rust case.

Reeb has since been appointed "special prosecutor," which Baldwin's motion says by statute means she is vested with "all the power and duties" of the appointing district attorney.

Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman hired by the District Attorney's Office to handle Rust-related media, wrote in an email Tuesday, "Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys can use whatever tactics they want to distract from the fact that Halyna Hutchins died because of gross negligence and a reckless disregard for safety on the Rust film set. However, the district attorney and the special prosecutor will remain focused on the evidence and on trying this case so that justice is served."

Jennifer Burrill, president-elect of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said she believes Baldwin's question is "valid."

"You can't benefit from state contracts while you are in the Legislature, and that goes directly to what they cited: separation of powers."

Burrill noted Reeb is also co-sponsor of House Bill 58, which proposes including involuntary manslaughter — the charge Baldwin faces — in a "three-strikes" list of violent felony crimes. Under the measure, a person convicted of three crimes on the list could be sent to prison for life.

Involuntary manslaughter is not currently classified as a violent felony, Burrill said.

Avoiding potential conflicts is one argument in favor of paying legislators a salary for their service, Burrill added.