EXCLUSIVE, updated with lawyers statement: Less than two weeks before a mini-trial is scheduled to begin in New Mexico over the October 2021 killing of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, all charges are going to be dropped against Alec Baldwin and the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed
Recently appointed special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis are expected to file paperwork soon, perhaps even today, to dismiss the involuntary manslaughter claims against the multi-Emmy-winning actor and the crew member without prejudice, we hear. That means, as they are set to investigate further into what actually went down that terrible day on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set near Santa Fe, this case could be resurrected in the future.
“We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin, and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,” Baldwin attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro said in a statement. Representatives for the Santa Fe’s District Attorney’s office had no comment on the situation when contacted by Deadline on Thursday.
“The new special prosecutor team has taken a very diligent and thorough approach to the entire investigation, which we welcome and have always welcomed,” said Reed’s lawyers Jason Bowles and Todd Bulllion today. “They are seeking the truth and we are also. The truth about what happened will come out and the questions that we have long sought answers for will be answered. We fully expect at the end of this process that Hannah will also be exonerated.”
Both Gutierrez-Reed and Baldwin had pleaded not guilty earlier this year.
Since an interview on ABC just weeks after the slaying of Hutchins, Baldwin repeatedly has insisted that he did not pull the trigger on the 1880s prop gun that killed the DoP — an insistence the FBI disagreed with in its report on the matter released last year. With Baldwin lawyers last month contesting the state of the gun, further investigation into the firearm looks certain to be undertaken as a part of any renewed probe.
These latest developments are occurring as production on a resurrected Rust was set to start in Montana with Baldwin and director Joel Souza, who was wounded in the October 2021 shooting. Originally scheduled to begin earlier this week, Rust 2.0 now is looking at starting tomorrow, we hear — though that could shift based on these new developments. The timing of the charges being dropped against Baldwin just before the new Rust production commences seems almost uncanny, though we are told it is purely coincidence.
The looming move by the special prosecutors also comes mere days after the filing of the witness list for the May 3-starting preliminary examination became public. Even with charges against Gutierrez-Reed still active, it looks unlikely that the preliminary examination aka mini-trial will go ahead as scheduled, especially with prosecutors digging anew into the evidence, context and circumstances of the on-set tragedy.
More than a year after Halyna Hutchins died on the Rust set, Baldwin and co-defendant Gutierrez-Reed were charged in late January with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Along with a mandatory five-year firearm enhancement that later was cast aside as “unconstitutional,” those charges carried a maximum of 18 months behind bars and around $5,000 in fines if a jury delivered guilty verdicts to Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed. At the time, New Mexico officials made a plea deal with Rust assistant director Dave Halls, who was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation.
In the past weeks, Baldwin had received approval from Judge Mary Marlow Sommer to be absent from the preliminary examination/mini-trial on the involuntary manslaughter claims against him. Still, in a sign of just how fast events were moving this week, the state released its 35-person witness list for the mini-trial, where Judge Sommer would determine if there is enough evidence to go to a full trial. Right near the top of that list is Rust director and co-creator Souza. The list also includes Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell — who is suing Baldwin and his fellow producers in one of the many suits against them still in L.A. Superior Court and New Mexico — armorer mentor Seth Kenney, more members of the crew and a ton of cops.
The sudden turn of events now for Rust star and producer Baldwin follows Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies stepping down from the case late last month and the duo of veteran New Mexico attorneys being put in charge.
While rare, that decision by the besieged DA looked almost inevitable over the past few weeks.
Almost from the jump after Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were formally charged, the DA hit several self-created potholes, including a lost February 24 attempt to block Gutierrez-Reed’s request to possess a gun in her home for self-defense. More embarrassingly for the DA, there also was a dismissal of the firearm enhancement charge from the case in late February and the stinging loss of previous special prosecutor and GOP state lawmaker Andrea Reeb in mid-March. Then, almost certain to lose an attempt to be co-counsel with a new special prosecutor, Carmack-Altwies finally removed herself from the case altogether on March 29. At the same time, the DA brought well-respected New Mexico lawyers Morrissey and Lewis on board as special prosecutors.
As the State of New Mexico pondered bringing charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed, the Hutchins estate settled its wrongful death suit against Rust Movie Productions LLC and Baldwin in October. As part of the deal, the DoP’s husband Matthew Hutchins is executive producing the new Rust production, as well as a documentary on his wife’s life and burgeoning career.
“I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin),” Matthew Hutchins said at the time. “All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.”
Earlier this week, that settlement was ordered sealed to protect the privacy of the Hutchins’ young son.