‘Rust’ defense prepares motion to dismiss manslaughter case
An image of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died after being shot by Alec Baldwin on the set of his movie “Rust”, is displayed at a vigil in her honour in Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 23, 2021.
Kevin Mohatt | Reuters
Defense attorneys for the original “Rust” movie armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, are planning in the next two weeks to file a motion to dismiss the criminal charges against her, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“Rust” star and producer Alec Baldwin is also charged in the case. If approved, the dismissal motion on behalf of Gutierrez-Reed would not automatically drop the charges against Baldwin, according to another person familiar with the matter.
Both people declined to be named due to the sensitive nature of the proceedings.
Baldwin’s lawyers could not be reached for comment.
Baldwin, known for roles in “The Hunt for Red October” and “Beetlejuice,” and Gutierrez-Reed are each facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter charges for the fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021. Baldwin, who has pleaded not guilty, was holding the gun that fired the bullet that killed Hutchins. Gutierrez-Reed also pleaded not guilty, according to the district attorney.
A jury will decide which count of involuntary manslaughter applies in this case. Either count carries up to 18-month sentences.
The dismissal motion would follow a series of missteps by the Santa Fe prosecutors trying the case. Most recently, The New York Times reported that the case’s former special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, suggested in a June 9, 2022, email that working on the case could help her political career.
“At some point though, I’d at least like to get out there that I am assisting you…as it might help my campaign lol,” Reeb said in an email to New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, the Times reported Tuesday.
“I am intending to either introduce you or send it in a press release when we get the investigation!” Carmack-Altwies responded. The DA’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Reeb was announced as special prosecutor in August, and she was elected to New Mexico’s legislature last fall. She stepped down as special prosecutor last week after Baldwin’s defense team sought to disqualify her. Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys co-signed that motion. They argued her work on the case violated New Mexico’s constitution since she was simultaneously serving as a prosecutor and a legislator.
Following the release of the emails, Baldwin’s attorneys said in Tuesday court filings that they now reserve the future right to argue that “Reeb charged the case to advance her political career.” They added that it is “a further abuse of the system and yet another violation of Mr. Baldwin’s constitutional rights.”
Alec Baldwin on Oct 7, 2021 at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Mark Sagliocco | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
In response to Baldwin’s court claims, Reeb told CNBC that the involuntary manslaughter charges “were not politically motivated.”
“I was already elected at the time charging decisions were made. Mr. Baldwin’s attorneys continue to deflect their client’s situation onto everybody else … ignoring Mr. Baldwin’s own responsibility for his actions,” Reeb added.
The prosecution also had previously walked back a so-called “firearm enhancement” charge, which carries a mandatory five-year prison sentence, after Baldwin’s defense pointed out that the law was not in effect at the time of the shooting.
Further, the DA’s office has made a series of heated public statements that some lawyers have said could bias a jury pool against Baldwin. For example, after the firearm enhancement charge was dropped, the DA’s office spokesperson said: “The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”
The DA’s office has not yet announced who will take over Reeb’s position as special prosecutor on the case, but Baldwin’s lawyers also said they reserve the right to challenge the future appointment.
Baldwin and other producers on the film are also up against a civil suit filed by Hutchins’ mother, father and sister.