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Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ Charges Downgraded, Maximum Prison Time Reduced to 18 Months

Prosecutors have dropped a firearm enhancement charge against Baldwin, after the actor's lawyers argued the law passed after the shooting.

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin

Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic

Alec Baldwin’s charges in the fatal “Rust” movie set shooting case have been significantly downgraded, after the prosecution opted to drop breaking New Mexico’s firearm enhancement statute from the case. Altered charges against the actor and fellow defendant Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were filed by the prosecution Friday.

The firearm enhancement law carries a minimum prison sentence of five years for those who break the law. With the charges now dropped, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed face a maximum prison sentence of only 18 months, or 1 and a half years, if they are convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Halyna Hutchins.

“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,” the New Mexico DA spokesperson Heather Brewer said in a statement provided to IndieWire. “The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”

Attorneys for Baldwin filed a motion to remove the firearm enhancement charges from the case earlier this month, arguing that the DA committed a “basic legal error” in charging the actor under said law. The October 2021 shooting, in which an accident with a gun Baldwin was holding on the set of “Rust” resulted in the death of cinematographer Hutchins, took place seven months before the law officially came into effect in the state in May 2022. Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed, who served as the armorer for the film, were charged for involuntary manslaughter on January 31.

In the February 10 motion to drop the statute, Baldwin’s attorneys said charging him under the law “would be unconstitutionally retroactive, and the government has no legitimate basis.” Under the current firearm enhancement laws, defendants face a minimum five-year sentence if a gun is discharged during a felony. The law in effect at the time of the “Rust” incident instead can only be applied if a defendant shows intent to injure or intimidate a person, which does not apply to the accidental shooting.

“We applaud the decision of the District Attorney to dismiss the firearm enhancement and it was the right call, ethically, and on the merits,” Jason Bowles, the attorney for Gutierrez-Reed, said in a statement. Attorneys for Baldwin declined to comment.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are scheduled to be arraigned this coming Friday.

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