Alec Baldwin’s charges are a sign that a criminal trial awaits him – but he remains defiant and even optimistic
It’s been 15 months since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot during rehearsals on a set in New Mexico.
A friend of hers, with whom she worked on the movie Rust, told me he was “praying for accountability” and the looming manslaughter charges suggest it could finally be happening.
There have been several civil lawsuits and counter-lawsuits filed by Rust’s cast and crew, from script assistant to head electrician, as the game of blame and counter-blame unfolds from a uniquely American way.
But these charges announced by the Santa Fe District Attorney are the first sign that a criminal trial may be coming for Alec Baldwin and the film’s gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of the weapons on set.
Baldwin admitted to holding the gun when the bullet that killed cackling was released but still denied pulling the trigger.
However, his account contradicts what FBI investigators have discovered. Police said they also spoke with other A-list actors as part of their investigation, who said they always checked their gun for live ammunition or had someone else do so. The implication is that Baldwin was negligent in not doing so.
“The gun was in his hand when he pulled the trigger and that was the primary action that killed Halyna Hutchins,” Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Cormack-Weiss told NBC.
“It was something that was more than just negligence, it was people acting recklessly, people not doing their job, people not following safety protocols, not following the safety standards, violated all the standards we all have to follow if we have a gun in our hands.”
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The film’s assistant director Dave Halls, who was responsible for all of the weapons on set and allegedly turned the gun over to Baldwin, reached a plea deal with prosecutors, admitting there was enough evidence to convict him of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
The decision to laser target it, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed suggest, investigators focused on the weapon’s chain of custody and who handled the weapon that day.
News of impending charges was welcomed by Ms Hutchins’ family, but the decision to charge Baldwin proved controversial in wider Hollywood.
“Accusing Alec Baldwin as a producer is one thing, but accusing him as an actor seems to misunderstand the chain of custody on a film set,” tweeted Robert King, creator of legal drama The Good Wife. “If you charge the actor, you should charge the director, all the producers, the props master, many more.”
Baldwin remains defiant and even optimistic. “We will fight this and we will win,” his lawyer said in a statement.
It rang with his feelings during his first TV interview after the tragedy. “Someone is guilty, but it’s not me,” he said on this occasion.
There’s no indication he’s close to reaching an agreement with prosecutors over the shooting, so there’s every chance it will lead to a jury trial where, if found guilty, he’ll could face 18 months in prison.
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