Los Angeles, April 21 (IANS) Prosecutors are expected to drop manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin in the death of ‘Rust’ cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
In a statement on Thursday evening, the special prosecutors in the case said that new facts had come to light that make it impossible to proceed against Baldwin in the time allotted, reports Variety.
The prosecutors, Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis, said that the investigation remains “active and ongoing,” and that charges could be refiled later on.
Baldwin’s lawyers said in their own statement that they were pleased with the outcome.
Baldwin was charged in January with involuntary manslaughter for the accidental shooting on the set of ‘Rust’, which took place in October 2021. He could have faced up to 18 months in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors accused him of negligently firing his Colt. 45 during set-up for a scene at the Bonanza Creek Ranch. Baldwin has maintained that he did not pull the trigger, and had no idea that the gun might contain a live round.
The actor’s lawyers recently presented evidence to the prosecutors that influenced the decision to drop the charges, according to a source familiar with the process. The evidence indicated that the Colt. 45 had been modified prior to the shooting, making it more difficult for the D.A. to prove that Baldwin actually did pull the trigger.
The D.A. will drop the charges “without prejudice,” meaning that the case could be refiled later, perhaps with a lesser charge.
In the statement, Morrissey and Lewis said that as they were preparing for a preliminary hearing over the last few days, “new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis.”
“Consequently, we cannot proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form,” they said. “We therefore will be dismissing the involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr Baldwin to conduct further investigation. This decision does not absolve Mr Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled.”
The D.A. has also filed involuntary manslaughter charges against Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armourer who loaded Baldwin’s weapon. The prosecutors said that the charges against her “remain unchanged.”
Gutierrez Reed’s lawyers, Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion, praised the new prosecutors for deciding to drop the charge against Baldwin, and predicted that their client will ultimately be vindicated as well.
“The new special prosecutor team has taken a very diligent and thorough approach to the entire investigation, which we welcome and have always welcomed,” Bowles and Bullion said.
“They are seeking the truth and we are too. 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.”
The prosecution has been plagued with setbacks, and many observers questioned whether the D.A. would be able to show that Baldwin acted with “criminal negligence.”
The Santa Fe district attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, initially charged Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed with a firearm enhancement, which could have tacked five years onto their sentences. That enhancement was dropped, however, after prosecutors discovered it did not apply at the time of the shooting.
A special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, was also forced to withdraw from the case after Baldwin’s lawyers argued that she could not serve as both a D.A. and a state lawmaker at the same time.
Carmack-Altwies recently handed off the case to Morrissey and Lewis and recused her office after a judge ruled that she could not continue to work on the case if she invoked the special prosecutor statute. Carmack-Altwies had said that her office was too overwhelmed with other casework, and was too short-staffed, to handle it without outside assistance.
A preliminary hearing was scheduled for May 3, at which the special prosecutors were expected to call witnesses to show there is enough evidence to go to trial. Baldwin’s attorneys indicated he was not willing to waive statutory deadlines, giving the two new prosecutors relatively little time to prepare.
Baldwin is currently on set in Montana, where production on ‘Rust’ is set to resume after a 17-month halt.
Dave Halls, the first assistant director on ‘Rust’, pleaded no contest on March 31 to a misdemeanor charge of negligent handling of a weapon. He was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation