Alec Baldwin faces fresh manslaughter charge over ‘Rust’ shooting

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Alec Baldwin at a 2018 movie premiereGetty Images

A grand jury in New Mexico has charged Alec Baldwin with a fresh count of involuntary manslaughter over a fatal movie set shooting in October 2021.

Previous charges against the Emmy award-winning actor were dropped last April, just two weeks before a criminal trial against him was due to begin.

Local prosecutors have since shared “additional facts” from forensic tests on the weapon used in the shooting.

Attorneys for Mr Baldwin told the BBC: “We look forward to our day in court.”

Mr Baldwin, 65, was practicing firing a Colt .45 pistol before filming a scene for Rust, an upcoming Western film shot near Santa Fe, in October 2021.

But the gun went off, fatally striking 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

The actor has maintained he did not pull the trigger and only drew back the hammer of the pistol.

He has also argued he is not at fault for Ms Hutchins’ death because he did not know the weapon contained live rounds and because no live ammunition was supposed to be on set.

But special prosecutors in New Mexico said in October that they had commissioned forensic experts to reconstruct the weapon, after it had been broken during FBI testing.

They said doing so revealed that the incident could only have taken place if the trigger had been pulled.

“Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” their report concluded.

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The new evidence was brought to a grand jury of 12 beginning on Thursday, with a requirement for at least eight to agree on probable cause for new charges.

Their one-count indictment was issued on Friday under two alternative legal theories – that Mr Baldwin was either negligent in his use of a firearm or that he acted with “total disregard or indifference for the safety of others”.

Prosecutors have indicated that he can only be convicted on one of these theories, not both. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison.

An attorney representing Ms Hutchins’ family said it was “looking forward to the criminal trial”.

“Our clients have always sought the truth about what happened on the day that Halyna Hutchins was tragically shot and killed,” Gloria Allred said in a statement.

“They continue to seek the truth in our civil lawsuit for them and they also would like there [sic] to be accountability in the criminal justice system.”

Mr Baldwin – who has expressed “shock and sadness” at Ms Hutchins’ death – said in recent court filings that he has struggled to find acting work since the incident.

Friday’s indictment comes exactly one year after the first manslaughter charge against him was announced. But the original case fell apart amid challenges from the Hollywood star’s lawyers and the initial team of prosecutors stepped down.

The new prosecution team dismissed the charge in April 2023 over evidence that the gun may have been modified, causing it to malfunction and discharge without the trigger being pulled.

But, as prosecutors weighed whether to refile charges in light of their new forensic results, judges had put several civil lawsuits against Mr Baldwin and other Rust producers on hold.

A low-budget independent flick, Rust was said to be a passion project for Mr Baldwin. He stars in the film as outlaw Harland Rust, in addition to co-writing it with Mr Souza, the director, and receiving a producer credit.

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Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for weapons and ammunitions on set as the film’s armourer, faces her own manslaughter charge, as well as a charge of evidence tampering. She has pleaded not guilty and will stand trial next month.

Dave Halls, who was in charge of safety on set as the first assistant director, pleaded no contest last March to a misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. His plea agreement entailed six months of unsupervised probation in lieu of prison time.

Rust was completed in May, after producers decided to finish the movie as a tribute to Ms Hutchins, and is currently awaiting distribution.

Ms Hutchins’ widower, Matthew, and her son, who was nine at the time, will receive a portion of the film’s profits in line with a wrongful death settlement approved in June by a judge.

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