SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Prosecutors in New Mexico plan to drop an involuntary manslaughter charge against Alec Baldwin in the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western film “ Rust,” Baldwin’s attorneys said Thursday.
“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,” Baldwin’s attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro said in a statement.
Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the Santa Fe district attorney’s office, declined to comment on the status of the criminal charges against Baldwin and weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed when reached by telephone Thursday.
That left it unclear whether charges against Baldwin could be refiled later, and whether prosecutors will continue to pursue an involuntary manslaughter charge against Gutierrez-Reed.
“This is very different from what the original prosecutor said,” noted John Day, a Santa Fe-based criminal defense attorney, highlighting the arrival of a new prosecution team on the “Rust” case in late March.
“It does raise the question of initially the Santa Fe district attorney saying we’re holding Alec Baldwin responsible in part because of the role as CEO of the production and (that) it was a very sloppy production. Does this mean that the new prosecutors have a different point of view?”
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 the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins shut it down, a representative for Rust Movie Productions said.
Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins during a rehearsal when the gun when off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.
Baldwin has said the gun went off accidentally and that he did not pull the trigger. An FBI forensic report found the weapon could not have fired unless the trigger was pulled.
Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys said that they “fully expect at the end of this process that Hannah will also be exonerated.”
“The truth about what happened will come out and the questions that we have long sought answers for will be answered,” the lawyers, Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion, said in a statement.
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 appointed in the case resigned.
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.”
The 65-year-old worked little since the shooting but hardly went into hiding. He stayed active on social media, making Instagram videos, recording a podcast and posting picture of his wife and seven children.
“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.
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 the legacy of Halyna Hutchins.
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 on the pending dismissal Thursday.
After a scathing safety review by regulators in New Mexico that detailed ignored complaints and misfires before Hutchins’ death in October of 2021, the production company agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.
Baldwin had yet to even travel to New Mexico for a court appearance, and none had been required of him under state law. Evidentiary hearings had been scheduled for next month to determine whether to proceed toward trial.
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies had said previously that her office is pursuing justice in the death of Hutchins and wants to show that no one is above the law when it comes to firearms and public safety. She says the Ukrainian-born cinematographer’s death was tragic and preventable.