In a significant development, a grand jury indicted A-list actor Alec Baldwin on Friday on an involuntary manslaughter charge related to the tragic 2021 fatal shooting during a rehearsal on the set of the Western movie “Rust” in New Mexico. The case, which had been dormant for some time, was revived as special prosecutors presented evidence before a grand jury in Santa Fe this week, following a new analysis of the firearm involved.
Baldwin, who served as the lead actor and co-producer on “Rust,” was involved in the incident where he pointed a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal outside Santa Fe in October 2021. The gun went off, resulting in Hutchins’ death and injuring director Joel Souza. Baldwin has maintained that he pulled back the hammer, not the trigger, and the gun discharged.
Earlier this year, judges had temporarily halted multiple civil lawsuits seeking compensation from Baldwin and the producers of “Rust” after prosecutors indicated their intention to present charges to a grand jury. Plaintiffs in these suits include members of the film crew.
Special prosecutors had initially dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin in April, citing the possibility of a modified gun malfunctioning. However, they later reconsidered the case and began exploring the option of refiling charges after receiving a new analysis of the firearm.
The analysis, conducted by experts in ballistics and forensic testing, involved reassembling the gun using replacement parts after the FBI’s testing caused some components to break. The findings concluded that the trigger had to have been pulled or depressed based on the examination of the gun and markings on a spent cartridge.
While Baldwin continues to deny pulling the trigger, the analysis contradicts his claims. The actor is now facing criminal charges, with the indictment accusing him of involuntary manslaughter.
Notably, the weapons supervisor on the movie set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering, and her trial is scheduled to commence in February. Additionally, “Rust” assistant director and safety coordinator David Halls pleaded no contest to unsafe handling of a firearm last March, cooperating in the investigation.
The aftermath of the 2021 shooting resulted in a series of civil lawsuits, including wrongful death claims. The Rust Movie Productions company paid a $100,000 fine to state workplace safety regulators for violations of industry protocols. Despite the legal challenges, the filming of “Rust” resumed in Montana last year, with an agreement involving the cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, who became an executive producer on the project.