UPDATED with special prosecutor statement after PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE: Despite a heady day of news about special prosecutors in New Mexico planning to drop criminal charges against Alec Baldwin for his role in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust in 2021, the actor and producer may still face charges.
The special prosecutors, Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis, released a statement late Thursday regarding the decision to drop his charges, saying they may be refiled after “further investigation.”
“Over the last few days and in preparation for the May 3, 2023, preliminary hearing, new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis in the case against Alexander “Alec” Rae Baldwin, III. Consequently, we cannot proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form. We therefore will be dismissing the involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr. Baldwin to conduct further investigation. This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled. Our follow-up investigation will remain active and on-going.”
Despite reports earlier in the day that former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed would also see her charges dropped, her status has not changed. “Charges against Hannah Gutierrez-Reed remain unchanged,” the prosecutors said tonight.
A virtual status hearing has been set for Friday in Santa Fe.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 12:03 p.m. PT, updated with lawyers’ statements: Less than two weeks before a mini-trial was 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.
Recently appointed special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis are expected to file paperwork soon, perhaps even today, to dismiss involuntary manslaughter claims against Baldwin, we hear. That designation means the case could be resurrected at a later date as the prosecutors are set to further investigate what actually went down that terrible day on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set near Santa Fe, NM.
Lawyers for Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed told Deadline that they expect her charges of involuntary manslaughter to also be dropped in the near future.
A virtual status conference has been just scheduled for Friday before Judge Mary Marlow Sommer.
“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.
“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. “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 to the charges.
Since an interview on ABC just weeks after the death of Hutchins, Baldwin repeatedly has insisted he did not pull the trigger on the 1880s prop gun that killed the cinematographer — an insistence the FBI disagreed with in its report on the matter released last year. However, now, with Baldwin lawyers last month contesting the state of the gun, further investigation into the firearm itself and whether it was somehow modified looks certain to be a part of any renewed probe, we hear.
The 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 Friday, 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 unusual, but we are told it is purely coincidence.
The move by the special prosecutors also comes days after the filing of the witness list for the preliminary examination became public. It looks unlikely that the preliminary examination, aka mini-trial, will go ahead as scheduled; it was due to begin May 3.
More than a year after Hutchins died on the Rust set, Baldwin and 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,” the charges carried a maximum of 18 months behind bars and about $5,000 in fines if a jury delivered guilty verdicts. 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, where Sommer would determine whether there is enough evidence to go to a full trial.
Still, in a sign of just how fast events were moving this week, the state released its 35-person witness list. Right near the top is Souza along with Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell — who is suing Baldwin and his fellow producers in one of the many legal actions against in Los Angeles Superior Court and in New Mexico — armorer mentor Seth Kenney, more members of the crew, and a ton of cops.
The sudden turn of events also follows Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies stepping down from the case last month and Morrissey and Lewis, both veteran New Mexico attorneys, being put in charge.
While rare, that decision by the besieged DA looked almost inevitable. 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 was a dismissal of the firearm enhancement charge and the loss of previous special prosecutor and GOP state lawmaker Andrea Reeb. 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, bringing Morrissey and Lewis on board.
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 revivied Rust movie, as well as a documentary on his wife’s life and 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.