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
A New Mexico prosecutor in the fatal “Rust” shooting case admitted Alec Baldwin was incorrectly charged with an extra penalty that comes with a potential five-year prison sentence, the movie star’s attorneys said in a court filing this week.
Baldwin’s lawyers had called the so-called firearm enhancement unconstitutional in a motion filed Feb. 10. They argued it was not applicable in Baldwin’s case because the law was changed in May 2022, seven months after the fatal on-set shooting of Halyna Hutchins in October 2021. Baldwin’s legal team withdrew their motion Monday.
Baldwin, a producer on the movie, was holding the gun that fired the bullet that killed Hutchins. The actor, who also starred in “The Departed” and “Beetlejuice,” has denied he pulled the trigger. The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was also charged with two counts of manslaughter, one of which carried the gun enhancement. Gutierrez-Reed’s charges were also downgraded.
Two days after Baldwin’s defense filed the Feb. 10 motion, special prosecutor Andrea Reeb wrote in an email: “We are a tad confused on your motion on the firearm enhancement.” A spokesperson for the prosecution had also spoken to CNBC, saying that the motion to reduce the charges was only an attempt to distract from the criminal case. Prosecutors have referred to Baldwin’s lawyers as “fancy attorneys.”
But, according to the Baldwin team’s Monday filing, 22 minutes after Reeb sent that first email, she followed up: “Let me look at the specific numbers and sections and make sure we have it correct.”
A couple hours later, Reeb sent a third email, admitting that the prosecutors were wrong and that she “100 percent” agreed with Baldwin’s lawyers’ evaluation of the firearm enhancement.
“I will have our documents drafted to amend the criminal information to take off the firearm enhancement,” she wrote.
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The emails were sent on Feb. 12. Days later, the prosecutors officially downgraded the charges, removing the firearm enhancement that could have landed Baldwin more than five years in prison if convicted.
Baldwin’s attorneys want Reeb off the case. They filed a motion on Feb. 7, arguing that she is not “constitutionally permitted” to serve as a prosecutor on the case given that she also serves in New Mexico’s legislature. Article III of New Mexico’s constitution prohibits anyone who serves in one government branch to perform duties for another branch.
Baldwin still faces involuntary manslaughter charges with a possible 18-month prison sentence for his role in the fatal shooting of Hutchins, who was the cinematographer on the set of “Rust.”
In addition to the criminal case, Hutchins’ mother, father and sister filed a civil suit against Baldwin and others involved in the production of “Rust.” Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins, settled his own civil lawsuit against Baldwin in October. He is now an executive producer on “Rust.”
Producers announced earlier this month that “Rust” will resume filming this spring and that a documentary about Hutchins’ life and work will also begin production. The production will resume in Montana, producers said Wednesday.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are slated to make their first court appearances Friday morning local time in a remote hearing.