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Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in 'Rust' shooting death

Prosecutors in Santa Fe, N.M., have announced involuntary manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin, related to the shooting death of cinematographer Halayna Hutchins in 2021.
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Getty Images for 2022 Robert F.
Prosecutors in Santa Fe, N.M., have announced involuntary manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin, related to the shooting death of cinematographer Halayna Hutchins in 2021.

Updated January 19, 2023 at 1:23 PM ET

Actor Alec Baldwin will face criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust, prosecutors in Santa Fe, N.M., said on Thursday.

The film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is facing the same charges, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a written statement.

In addition to those charges, Assistant Director David Halls "has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon," according to the announcement.

"If any one of these three people—Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls—had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today," said Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by Carmack-Altwies. "It's that simple."

A review of evidence in the case "clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety" on the film's set, Reeb added.

Baldwin's attorney, Luke Nikas, called the decision to file charges "a terrible miscarriage of justice" and a distortion of a tragedy.

The actor "relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds," Nikas said in a statement to NPR. "We will fight these charges, and we will win."

In October 2021, Baldwin was holding a Colt .45-caliber pistol that fired a live round, killing Hutchins. At the time, they were rehearsing a scene for the Western film.

Baldwin has maintained that Hutchins died in a tragic accident, saying he didn't intentionally fire the weapon and had no idea that it held live ammunition when the film crew gathered to rehearse a scene for the film.

What are the charges against Baldwin?

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are each being charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, meaning they're "charged in the alternative." Prosecutors say they want a jury to decide not only if the pair is guilty, but which type of involuntary manslaughter should apply to the events around Hutchins' death.

At base level, both charges are fourth-degree felonies, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. But if Baldwin and/or Gutierrez-Reed are found guilty of the more serious charge, which carries a firearm enhancement, they stand to face five years in prison.

Under the basic involuntary manslaughter charge, prosecutors would need to show that underlying negligence played a role in the shooting death. That charge would also "likely" merge with a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, prosecutors said.

The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act — which would require prosecutors to establish that factors beyond simple negligence contributed to Hutchins' death. This version of the charge includes a firearm enhancement, meaning that if the actor or armorer were found guilty, they would face a mandatory prison term of five years.

When contacted by NPR, Gutierrez-Reed's attorney, Jason Bowles, said his client "is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident. But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter."

Calling the official investigation "flawed," Bowles stated, "We intend to bring the full truth to light and believe Hannah will be exonerated of wrongdoing by a jury."

The charges will be formally filed by the end of this month, the prosecutors said, setting the case in motion in the court system.

The decision comes after months of debate and accusation

The shooting has sparked a series of conflicting versions and opinions, from Baldwin saying he didn't pull the trigger on the gun, to the FBI refuting that statement — and Baldwin's attorney saying the FBI's findings were "misconstrued."

As for how the bullet came to be in the gun, Gutierrez-Reed has previously accused the film's supplier of providing live rounds rather than blanks or dummy rounds.

Hutchins' family filed a wrongful death suit last February against Baldwin and others involved in making the film, alleging that "reckless behavior and cost-cutting" contributed to the death of Hutchins at age 42.

But that lawsuit was halted last October after the actor and Hutchins' family agreed to a settlement. The deal included a call for production of Rust to resume this month, with Hutchins' husband, Matthew Hutchins, added as an executive producer on the film.

"I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin)," Matthew Hutchins said in a statement about the settlement. "All of us believe Halyna's death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna's final work."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: January 19, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this story and a push notification incorrectly spelled Halyna Hutchins' first name as Halayna.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.