An involuntary manslaughter charge against Alec Baldwin has been downgraded, a significant win for Baldwin, who is accused in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of the Western movie “Rust.”
Prosecutors last month charged Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter, accusing him of having skipped “required firearms training” and having created “a climate of recklessness” on the set.
A firearm enhancement to the charge could have made the crime punishable by a mandatory sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors have said.
New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies dropped the enhancement Friday, according to new court filings made public Monday.
The decision means Baldwin now faces a maximum of 18 months behind bars if he is convicted.
“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,” DA’s spokesperson Heather Brewer said in a statement. “The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”
Baldwin filed a motion this month to remove special prosecutor Andrea Reeb from the case, citing New Mexico’s separation-of-powers statute.
Baldwin’s legal team argued that Reeb, a member of the state House of Representatives, should be barred from the prosecutor’s table because the state constitution says a “sitting member of the Legislature may not ‘exercise any powers properly belonging’ to either the executive or judicial branch,” according to a filing with the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico.
State prosecutors also charged Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film's armorer, who was responsible for weapons on the set, with involuntary manslaughter and dropped the gun enhancement against her, too.
“We applaud the District Attorney’s decision to drop the firearm enhancement and it was the right call, ethically and on the merits,” her attorney, Jason Bowles, said in a statement.
Baldwin's attorneys declined to comment on the latest development. They had objected to the enhancement, saying it was unconstitutional because it was added after the shooting.
More coverage of the 'Rust' movie set shooting
- Alec Baldwin asks to have special prosecutor removed from 'Rust' case
- Alec Baldwin is formally charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 'Rust' shooting
- Prosecutors will have a difficult burden to cast Alec Baldwin as a criminal, lawyers say
- Prosecutors say they knew early in the probe that the fatal 'Rust' shooting would lead to charges
- Alec Baldwin settles lawsuit with family of cinematographer killed on 'Rust' set
- Five takeaways from Alec Baldwin's first sit-down interview about fatal 'Rust' shooting
“The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a version of the firearm-enhancement statue that did not exist on the date of the accident,” the attorneys said in a previous court filing.
Baldwin was rehearsing with a pistol for a scene on Oct. 21, 2021, when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza, officials said.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
Luke Nikas, an attorney for Baldwin, has called the charges a “terrible miscarriage of justice.” Nikas has previously said the defense would fight the accusations and win.
“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” Nikas has said. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked.”
Baldwin's next court date is scheduled for Friday.