Charges against Alec Baldwin in the 2021 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust” have been dropped.
Prosecutors filed a formal notice Friday dismissing without prejudice the criminal case against Baldwin, noting “new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis which cannot be completed before the May 3, 2023 preliminary hearing.” An investigation into the case remains “active and on-going,” prosecutors added.
Baldwin’s attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, confirmed to USA TODAY in a statement Thursday that prosecutors in New Mexico planned to drop an involuntary manslaughter charge against the actor, who was holding the prop gun that killed Hutchins.
“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,” the statement says.
Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the Santa Fe district attorney’s office, declined to comment to The Associated Press on the status of the criminal charges against weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed when reached by telephone Thursday.
Special prosecutors Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis elaborated on their decision in a statement Thursday.
The prosecutors added that their decision to drop the charges “does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled.”
“We cannot proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form,” they say. “Our follow-up investigation will remain active and ongoing.”
Gutierrez-Reed’s charges remain unchanged, the attorneys added.
On Friday, attorneys for the state and Gutierrez-Reed met with the judge and agreed to move the date of the armorer’s next hearing from June 26 to August 9 so prosecutors could further investigate and potentially interview more witnesses.
Santa Fe prosecutors were pursuing involuntary manslaughter charges against the actor and Gutierrez-Reed. Both pleaded not guilty.
Alec Baldwin movie ‘Rust’ to restart filming after prop gun shooting death of Halyna Hutchins
In a statement to USA TODAY Thursday, her attorneys say 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,” Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion say.
Personal injury attorney Ted Spaulding, who does not represent Gutierrez-Reed, says it’s “unlikely” her charges will be dropped “since she was the first line of defense in ensuring safety on set.”
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Legal experts weigh in: ‘Dropping the case doesn’t mean they can’t refile in the future’
Criminal charges against Baldwin were “always going to be more difficult to pursue” than those against Gutierrez-Reed, Spaulding tells USA TODAY.
“Ultimately, it’s the armorer’s job to ensure that there are no live bullets in the gun,” he says. “The actor has the legal right to assume that the armorer did their job.”
Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins during a rehearsal for the Western film in October 2021 when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. Baldwin, also a producer on the film, claimed the gun went off accidentally and that he did not pull the trigger. An FBI forensic report found the weapon could not have been fired unless the trigger was pulled.
The case against Baldwin had already been diminishing. A weapons charge that would have meant a much longer sentence had already been dismissed, and the first special prosecutor in the case resigned.
However, Baldwin’s legal troubles may not be behind him just yet, says personal injury attorney Miguel Custodio, who does not represent the parties in this case.
“Dropping the case doesn’t mean they can’t refile in the future,” Custodio told USA TODAY. “Gutierrez-Reed is still charged, and it’s possible (prosecutors) want to wait to see what they can learn from that case, analyze it and decide whether to go forward against Baldwin.”
‘Rust’ announces new plans for Alec Baldwin movie, documentary on late Halyna Hutchins
‘Rust’ movie to resume filming
When word of the dismissal came, Baldwin was at Yellowstone Film Ranch on the set of a rebooted “Rust” production. Preparations for filming were underway Thursday at its new location in Montana, 18 months after Hutchins’ death shut it down, a representative for Rust Movie Productions said.
The production company finalized a settlement last month with New Mexico workplace safety regulators over “serious” violations, agreeing to a $100,000 fine to resolve a scathing safety review that detailed unheeded complaints and misfires on set before Hutchins was shot and killed.
Plans to resume filming were outlined last year by the cinematographer’s widower Matthew Hutchins in a proposed settlement to a wrongful death lawsuit that would make him an executive producer. Souza has said he will return to directing “Rust” production to honor Halyna’s legacy.
Despite the settlement, attorneys for the Hutchins family said they welcomed the criminal charges against Baldwin when they were filed. They had no immediate comment to AP on the pending dismissal Thursday.
Tre Lovell, a Los Angeles-based entertainment and corporate lawyer, says dropping the criminal charges against Baldwin is a “huge weight off of the entertainment industry’s shoulders.”
This “will allow Hollywood to learn from the tragic and horrible accident in a way that drastically makes movie sets safer, but also keeps the structure of the movie world intact,” Lovell told USA TODAY.
The charges against Baldwin had marked a stunning fall for an A-list actor whose 40-year career included the early blockbuster “The Hunt for Red October” and a starring role in the sitcom “30 Rock,” as well as iconic appearances in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and a film adaptation of David Mamet’s “Glengary Glen Ross.” In recent years, he was known for his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Rust” safety coordinator and assistant director David Halls pleaded no contest in March to a conviction for unsafe handling of a firearm and a suspended sentence of six months of probation.
Prosecutors downgrade Alec Baldwin manslaughter chargesin ‘Rust’ shooting case
Contributing: Marco della Cava, USA TODAY; Morgan Lee and Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press