Alec Baldwin will face criminal charges in connection with the fatal on-set shooting accident that caused the death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, Rust’s armorer, are each to be “charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.”
During the western’s October 2021 shoot in New Mexico, a bullet from a prop gun held by Baldwin struck and killed Hutchins, and also injured the movie’s director, Joel Souza. The tragic accident prompted uproar in the film community around on-set safety–Rust assistant director David Halls had even been fired from a previous shoot due to a similar incident–and several crew members on Rust came forward to criticize the production’s conditions.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are facing one charge each of involuntary manslaughter in connection to “underlying negligence,” as well as another, more serious charge “which requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death.” They could each face up to five years in prison. (Halls received a suspended sentence and half a year of probation as part of a plea deal.)
“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,” Santa Fe County D.A. Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”
In October 2022, Hutchins’ family reached a settlement agreement in their wrongful death lawsuit with Baldwin and the other producers of Rust, which cleared the way for shooting to resume in January 2023, with Hutchins’ husband Matthew now credited as an executive producer. “I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work,” Matthew Hutchins said in a statement obtained by the Times.
Baldwin spoke at length in a December 2021 interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, saying “I would go to any lengths to undo what happened,” and that he had been told that the gun did not have a charge in it (what is colloquially known in Hollywood as a “cold gun” vs. a “hot gun”). Baldwin also said that he was holding the gun where Hutchins directed him to, and that it discharged after he cocked it and released the hammer, but did not pull the trigger.
“I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them,” he told ABC News “The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me ‘til probably 45 minutes to an hour later.”
However, in October 2022, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office submitted the findings from its investigation, which included FBI analysis from that August stating the weapon would not have fired without the trigger being pulled, seemingly contradicting Baldwin’s account of events.
Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, issued a statement criticizing the decision to pursue charges, and said that they intend to fight the charges. “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,” Nikas said.
It is unclear as of now how the charges and investigation will affect plans to finish shooting the movie.