Alec Baldwin Has Gotten Some Good News Regarding Rust Manslaughter Case

Earlier this month, it was reported that actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were potentially facing five years in prison if found guilty in the criminal case surrounding the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust. This was because of an added “firearm enhancement” charge that was put into New Mexico law in 2022 (about seven months after the incident). Now, however, prosecutors have downgraded the involuntary manslaughter charges.

News of this change comes from The New York Times following arguments from Alec Baldwin's attorneys earlier this month protesting the firearm enhancement charge. While a guilty verdict with that charge would have resulted in a minimum sentencing of five years, Baldwin is still potentially facing a maximum of 18 months in prison. A statement was issued by Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for the district attorney, who said that the dropped charge was a result of prosecutors trying to avoid "litigious distractions" from the actor and his lawyers. The statement adds:

The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.

Per NYT, the firearm enhancement charge in New Mexico was changed last year to apply to cases where a firearm is "discharged" in the midst of an individual committing a noncapital felony. Prior to the law's alteration, the charge applied only to cases where a person "brandished" a firearm in such criminal cases.

Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were officially charged with Involuntary Manslaughter late last month for their roles in the incident that took place on the set of the developing film Rust in October 2021. According to reports, Gutierrez-Reed was meant to load a gun used in the movie with dummy rounds before giving the weapon to Baldwin, and the gun discharged while the actor was working on his draw in preparation for a scene. The live round that was fired killed Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography, and director Joel Souza was injured.

In response to the criminal charges, Baldwin has said that he was told that the weapon was "cold" – meaning safe to use – prior to the firearm discharging, and he has said that he didn't pull the trigger. He has maintained his innocence while reportedly being "prepared for all outcomes." In addition to playing a role in Rust, the actor is also credited as a producer.

It was reported last week that filmmakers are planning to resume production on Rust this spring. In addition to the criminal charges, the movie has been fined $136,793 by  the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau due to what has been described as “plain indifference” to employee safety. In addition to Alec Baldwin, the film also stars Travis Fimmel, Frances Fisher, and Jensen Ackles – who addressed the incident shortly after it happened.

Eric Eisenberg
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.