Alec Baldwin and ‘Rust’ Armorer to Face Involuntary Manslaughter Charges

The film's assistant director also took a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
Alec Baldwin Rust
Alec Baldwin
Getty Images

Alec Baldwin and “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will face involuntary manslaughter charges in the “Rust” case, the district attorney in the case announced Thursday. Charges will be filed before the end of the month.

Both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be charged with two separate counts of involuntary manslaughter. Under New Mexico law, each charge is a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, along with special prosecutor Andrea Reeb, announced their decision in a written statement to press on Thursday morning. The DA and special prosecutor were not made available in a press conference or public appearance.

“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” Carmack-Altwies said. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves 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. 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,” Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas of Quinn Emanuel, said in a statement to press.

“Hannah is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident. But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter. These charges are the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts. We intend to bring the full truth to light and believe Hannah will be exonerated of wrongdoing by a jury,” Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion said in a statement.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with the two counts of manslaughter, meaning that a jury would decide not simply if they were guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they were guilty.

Assistant director David Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. The terms include a suspended sentence and six months of probation. A copy of the plea agreement will be available after it has been filed with the court.

No charges will be filed specific to the non-fatal shooting of “Rust” director Joel Souza.

IndieWire has reached out to an attorney for Halls for comment. Reps for Rust Movie Productions LLC did not reply to a request for comment.

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - OCTOBER 22: A sign directs people to the road that leads to the Bonanza Creek Ranch where the movie "Rust" is being filmed on October 22, 2021 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Director of Photography Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured on set while filming the movie "Rust" at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 21, 2021. The film's star and producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm that hit Hutchins and Souza. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
“Rust” setGetty Images

The criminal charges come more than a year after a fatal accident on set of the independent Western film “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 the “Rust” director Joel Souza. Hutchins had wanted to line up a camera angle and had 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 a renewed conversation on firearm safety on movie sets. But the key question that remained unanswered was how live bullets found their way to the “Rust” set.

“If any one of these three people — Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, or David Halls — had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple,” Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by the DA to the case. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”

Investigators finally last October turned over a 551-page binder of evidence and interviews with key members on set, which detailed the working conditions that led to other misfires of weapons during production and six crew members ultimately walking off set on the day of the accident after citing safety concerns. DA Carmack-Altwies back in August suggested that as many as four individuals could be charged in the case and had requested emergency funds from the state in order to stage the prosecution.

Baldwin, who believed he was holding a “cold gun,” has stated that he did not pull the trigger on the gun before it discharged, merely pulled back the gun’s hammer, and he 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 Productions, LLC for negligence toward firearm safety. However, an FBI report complicated things further when it claimed that the gun could not have been discharged without a pull of the trigger.

Armorer Gutierrez-Reed, the daughter of famed exhibition shooter, armorer, and stuntman Thell Reed, was working on just her second film production while working on “Rust” and was even sued by Baldwin for failing to check the gun or the bullets carefully before clearing it. Halls as AD had then announced that it was a “cold gun” before handing it to Baldwin. Lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed have also criticized the Sheriff’s department and even claimed “sabotage” may have been the cause for how live rounds made their way to the set.

Not included in any charges were prop master Sarah Zachry, whom Baldwin had also sued for failing in her own duties, and Seth Kenney of PDQ Arm & Prop, which supplied the ammunition and guns to the film set.

PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 28: Halyna Hutchins attends the SAGindie Sundance Filmmakers Reception at Cafe Terigo on January 28, 2019 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Fred Hayes/Getty Images for SAGindie)
Halyna HutchinsGetty Images for SAGindie

Producers on “Rust” had hoped to resume production on the film early this year, with Hutchins’ widow Matthew even attached as an executive producer, but no progress has been made on resuming filming. Hutchins’ attorney Brian J. Panish, also thanked the District Attorney in response to the announcement.

“We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life,” Panish said in a statement to press. “Our independent investigation also supports charges are warranted. It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law.”

Following the filing of charges, each defendant will be issued a summons with the charging information. Shortly after receiving the summons each defendant is required to make a “first appearance,” a procedure that is often referred to in other jurisdictions as an arraignment. That first appearance can be done virtually, and defendants can even move to have their first appearance waived. First appearance dates are set by the court, not by the District Attorney.

Given that the First Judicial District in New Mexico is only impaneling grand juries under certain circumstances due to ongoing COVID restrictions, the next step after first appearance will be a preliminary hearing. In this process, a judge takes on the role of the grand jury. The District Attorney and the special prosecutor present their case to the judge. The judge then rules whether there is probable cause to move forward with a trial. The dates for a preliminary hearing will be set by the court, not by the District Attorney. However, preliminary hearings are typically scheduled within 60 days of charges being filed.

“There is a very clear process for pursuing justice in this case,” Carmack-Altwies said. “We are committed to upholding the integrity of that process to ensure equal justice under the law.”

Once charges are filed, more detailed paperwork will be available online through the court that details the evidence the DA and the special prosecutor cite. An announcement will be made to the public when the charges have formally been filed.

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