Actor Alec Baldwin and “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were each charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after a gun Baldwin was holding on set went on.
Although the first hearing was scheduled on Friday, February 24, the “30 Rock” actor submitted his not guilty plea on Thursday and will no longer need to appear in court tomorrow.
First ‘Rust’ Hearing Canceled After Alec Baldwin Pleads Not Guilty To Involuntary Manslaughter Charges
As expected, Alec Baldwin pled not guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter. As such, New Mexico Judge Mary Marlow Sommer has canceled the hearing scheduled for tomorrow.
In legal documents submitted in court on Thursday, Baldwin’s lead lawyer Luke Nikas wrote, “I hereby certify that I have explained to Mr. Baldwin his right to personally appear before the District Court to enter a plea of Not Guilty and to have his rights explained to him by the judge and I am satisfied that Mr. Baldwin understands the waiver of these rights.”
Baldwin facing two involuntary manslaughter charges, which is classified as a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico. As such, he could spend as long as eighteen months behind bars and a $5,000 fine if convicted. The second charge, which carried an additional firearm enhancement, would have resulted in a mandatory five-year prison stay if convicted.
However, that firearm enhancement was removed on Monday, as the law was not in effect at the time of the shooting. According to the legal documents filed by Baldwin’s team, “The prosecutors in this case have committed an unconstitutional and elementary legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a statute that did not exist on the date of the accident.”
The papers go on to say, “It thus appears that the government intended to charge the current version of the firearm enhancement statute, which was not enacted until May 18, 2022, seven months after the accident.”
“Accordingly, that enhancement should not be bound over,” the legal documents state. “Application of the current version of the statute would be unconstitutionally retroactive, and the government has no legitimate basis to charge Mr. Baldwin under the version of the statute that existed at the time of the accident.”
Nikas filed a notice to withdraw that motion, writing, “In light of the government’s concession that its decision to charge the enhancement was legally erroneous, the Motion is now moot.”
However, Baldwin’s legal team still took a shot at the prosecution, adding, “The government has nevertheless continued to issue statements to the media criticizing Mr. Baldwin and his counsel for filing a meritorious motion, stating that the government’s withdrawal of the enhancement is intended to ‘avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys’ and that the prosecution’s priority is ‘securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.'”
The comments were in response to a statement made by Heather Brewer, spokesperson for New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies.
“In order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor have removed the firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the Rust film set,” Brewer said. “The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”
‘Rust’ Finds New Filming Location In Montana
The Western film will resume production this spring after finding a new home at the Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana, as reported by Deadline. After departing New Mexico, several locations in southern California were scouted before “Rust’ producers settled on Montana as its new home.
Yellowstone Film Ranch co-founders Richard Gray, Carter Boehm, and Colin Davis released a statement, saying, “The dedication and passion of the entire Rust production team to honor Halyna’s vision has deeply moved us. We’ve learned so much about Halyna as a friend and colleague, the depth of her artistry, and the lasting impact she had on so many. We are honored to play a role in the realization of her vision and to carry forward her inspiring legacy through championing this film.”
Director Joel Souza, who was hospitalized in the fatal “Rust” shooting, added, “I am deeply grateful to Richie, Carter, and Colin for the invitation to the Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana. Their unwavering friendship, support, and now partnership in completing Rust and honoring Halyna means the world to me and our entire production team. The beauty of Montana surpasses words, and the warm hospitality and kindness extended by everyone I’ve met has been both humbling and inspiring. It is a privilege to work with such great partners as we see this through on Halyna’s behalf.”
Yellowstone Film Ranch opened in 2020 and has hosted several film productions, such as “The Old Way,” starring Nicolas Cage. Ironically, that film marked Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s first credit as an armorer.