Actor Alec Baldwin, who fatally shot a cinematographer on the set of the Western movie “Rust” in 2021, and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors said Thursday.
The family of Halyna Hutchins, who was the film’s director of photography, thanked prosecutors for their decision.
“It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law,” the family said in a statement released by attorney Brian J. Panish.
Baldwin has maintained he was not aware the gun he fired during a rehearsal contained a live round. His attorney called the prosecutors’ decision “a terrible miscarriage of justice.”
“This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ 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,” attorney Luke Nikas said.
“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.”
Live updates: Alec Baldwin to be charged in fatal ‘Rust’ shooting
An attorney for Gutierrez Reed said he believes jurors will find his client not guilty.
“We were expecting the charges but they’re absolutely wrong as to Hannah – we expect that she will be found not guilty by a jury and she did not commit manslaughter,” attorney Jason Bowles said in a statement Thursday.
“She has been emotional about the tragedy but has committed no crime.”
Why 2 counts of involuntary manslaughter
Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed each face two counts of involuntary manslaughter so that a jury can decide which specific count may be more appropriate, New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said.
If convicted, “they will only be sentenced to one count,” the prosecutor said.
In either case, a conviction is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine, prosecutors said.
But one count would involve a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, because a firearm was involved. In that case, the crime could be punishable by a mandatory five years in jail, prosecutors said.
Charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed will be formally filed by the end of this month, Carmack-Altwies said. She will not be asking for the defendants to be arrested at that time, the prosecutor said.
Baldwin and his legal team feel “blindsided” by the announcement, Nikas said.
They were not given any indication Baldwin would face criminal charges and “learned of the charges in the media,” he added.
Carmack-Altwies told CNN her office was in “almost constant contact” with the opposing parties’ attorneys “for about the last six weeks.”
“They didn’t know exactly what was coming, but they were aware that we were contemplating charges and they were aware of what the contemplated charges were,” she said.
Baldwin has responsibility as a producer, DA says
The district attorney said she believed “Rust” had a “really fast and loose set,” saying there was a lack of safety standards and “live rounds on set – they were mixed in with regular dummy rounds.”
“Nobody was checking those, or least they weren’t checking them consistently,” Carmack-Altwies said.
“And then they somehow got loaded into a gun, handed off to Alec Baldwin; he didn’t check it, he didn’t do any of the things that he was supposed to do to make sure that he was safe or that anyone around him was safe. And then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and he pulled the trigger.”
Baldwin was also a producer for “Rust” and therefore had additional responsibilities, the district attorney said.
“As a producer, he also had a duty to make sure that the set was safe,” Carmack-Altwies said. “And then as an actor that day, he should have checked that gun, checked those projectiles.”
What investigators have revealed
Director Joel Souza was also shot and injured. No charges will be filed against Souza in relation to the shooting.
In the summary of the postmortem investigation into Hutchins’ death – which was formally signed by the New Mexico chief medical investigator – the cause of death is listed as “gunshot wound of chest,” and the manner of death is listed as an “accident.”
“Review of available law enforcement reports showed no compelling demonstration that the firearm was intentionally loaded with live ammunition on set. Based on all available information, including the absence of obvious intent to cause harm or death, the manner of death is best classified as accident,” the report concluded.
An FBI forensics report said the weapon could not be fired during FBI testing of its normal functioning without pulling the trigger while the gun was cocked. The report also noted the gun eventually malfunctioned during testing after internal parts fractured, which caused the gun to go off in the cocked position without pulling the trigger.
The shooting has led to a whirlwind of finger-pointing and allegations of negligence from those involved.
In an interview with CNN in August, Baldwin placed responsibility for the tragedy on Gutierrez Reed, who served as the armorer and props assistant on the film, and assistant director Dave Halls, who handed him the gun.
Halls signed a plea agreement “for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon,” the district attorney’s office announced in its statement Thursday. Prosecutors said the terms of that deal include six months of probation and a suspended sentence.
On Thursday, Halls’ attorney, Lisa Torraco, released a statement in defense of her client.
“Absent no charges at all, this is the best outcome for Mr. Halls and the case,” Torraco said. “He can now put this matter behind him and allow the focus of this tragedy to be on the shooting victims and changing the industry so this type of accident will never happen again. “
Multiple lawsuits filed
In November, Baldwin filed suit against Gutierrez Reed and Halls and others associated with the film, according to a cross-complaint obtained by CNN.
Through their respective attorneys, both Gutierrez Reed and Halls maintained they were not at fault and accused Baldwin of deflecting blame onto others.
Gutierrez Reed also sued the movie’s gun and ammunition supplier and its founder – who deny wrongdoing – and alleged a cache of dummy ammunition was sold with live rounds mixed in.
In October, Hutchins’ family reached an undisclosed settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Baldwin and others involved in producing the film.
Matthew Hutchins, widower of Halyna Hutchins, described her death as a “terrible accident” in a statement at the time of the settlement. Production on “Rust” was to resume this month with Matthew Hutchins joining as an executive producer on the film as part of the agreement.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the last name of David Halls’ attorney. It’s Torraco.
CNN’s Chloe Melas, Kevin Flower, Stella Chan and Megan Thomas contributed to this report.