Upon formally charging Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal “Rust” case Tuesday, New Mexico prosecutors claimed the actor was “distracted” and speaking with his family on his cell phone during mandatory firearms training.
Via a probable cause statement publicly released by the New Mexico district attorney’s office, prosecutors charged Baldwin as both an actor and a producer on the film, saying that he was “reckless” in deviating from standard practices involving firearm safety on set and by not receiving appropriate firearm training.
The DA cites statements, deposition from OSHA, and a deposition from armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed that Baldwin’s training was “very limited”: He was scheduled to receive an hour of training that showed him how to make the cross draw required for the “Rust” scene as well as how to load and unload the gun. According to Reed via the document, Baldwin’s actual training lasted for only 30 minutes because “Baldwin was distracted and talking on his cell phone to his family during the training.”
“Evidence shows Baldwin failed to appear for mandatory firearms training and firearms safety training prior to filming. Evidence also shows Baldwin requested and was afforded a training session ‘on-set’… The on-set and limited time of training does not comport to industry standards and evidence shows Baldwin was in a position to manage, oversee, commence, and require safety training to industry standards. Baldwin’s failure to ensure minimum standards were met is considered reckless in the industry,” the statement reads in part. “This reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol directly caused the fatal shooting.”
The DA further claims Baldwin should have known never to point a gun directly at other people, even when directed to do so, and he should not have put his finger on the trigger. Finally, as a producer and actor with expertise with weapons on past films, ultimately he should have known better.
“Baldwin’s deviation from known standards, practice and protocol directly caused the fatal death of Hutchins. By not receiving the required training on firearms, not checking the firearm with the armorer, letting the armorer leave the firearm in the church without being present, deviating from the practice of only accepting the firearm from the armorer, not dealing with the safety complaints on set and/or making sure safety meetings were held, putting his finger on the trigger of a real firearm when a replica or rubber gun should have been used, pointing the firearm at Hutchins and Souza, and the overall handling of the firearm in a negligent manner, Baldwin acted with willful disregard for the safety of others and in a manner which endangered other people, specifically Hutchins and Souza,” the statement reads. “Baldwin clearly should have known the danger of his actions which led to the death of Hutchins.”
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed now face two involuntary manslaughter charges each. One stems from underlying negligence and the other stems from “manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act,” which requires proof of more than simple negligence involved in a death. Under New Mexico law, each is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine — but the charges include a firearm enhancement, which carries a mandatory penalty of five years in jail.
Baldwin, who believed he was holding a “cold gun,” has stated that he did not pull the trigger on the gun before it discharged. He said he only pulled back the gun’s hammer, and claimed in April via a statement from his attorney that he had been “exonerated” by a report from the OHSB that resulted in a maximum fine against Rust Movie Prods., LLC for negligence toward firearm safety.
However, an FBI report claimed that the gun could not have been discharged without a pull of the trigger. The DA’s statement cites the FBI investigation and said the gun did not malfunction or accidentally fire and that the trigger had to have been pressed. It also cites photo and video evidence that show Baldwin had his finger inside the trigger guard and on the trigger while drawing, pointing and holstering the revolver.
Attorneys for Baldwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed said the DA’s probable cause statement against her reveals the DA “misunderstood the facts and has reached the wrong conclusions” and adds that Gutierrez-Reed “pleaded” to provide more firearms training but was denied.
“Hannah asked to be able to perform her armorer duties more for safety reasons. She was told by production to focus on props. Hannah asked Halls if they could us a plastic gun for the rehearsal scene and he said no, wanting a ‘real gun.’ Hannah asked to be called back into the church if Baldwin was going to use the gun at all and Halls failed to do that,” Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion said in a statement. “Yet the district attorney has given Halls a 6 month probation misdemeanor and charged Hannah and Baldwin with felony offenses carrying at least 5 years in prison. The tragedy of this is had Hannah just been called back into the church by Halls, she would have performed the inspection and prevented this tragedy. We will fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty.”
The formal criminal charges come more than a year after a fatal accident on set of the independent Western “Rust” on October 21, 2021, in which star and producer Baldwin held the prop gun that discharged while containing a live bullet, killing Hutchins and injuring “Rust” director Joel Souza. Hutchins wanted to line up a camera angle and instructed Baldwin to remove the weapon from his holster while aiming it at the camera, at which point it fired and struck Hutchins in the torso.
The tragic accident led to months of finger pointing, accusations, civil lawsuits, and even conspiracy theories from numerous members of the production, as well as renewed conversation around firearm safety on movie sets.
A key question that remains unanswered is how live bullets found their way to the “Rust” set.
Since the DA announced January 19 that prosecutors would bring formal charges, people across Hollywood such as SAG-AFTRA have defended Baldwin and said that an actor should not carry the responsibility of making sure firearms are safely handled on set. Others have pointed the finger at the film’s other producers, who were not charged with any criminal responsibility, of fostering an unsafe work environment.
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