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Charges against Alec Baldwin to be dropped in 'Rust' shooting

Published Apr 20, 2023 03:43PM ET Updated Apr 21, 2023 01:05AM ET
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© Reuters. Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home, as he will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie "Rust", in New York, U.S., January 31, 2023. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado

By Andrew Hay

TAOS, New Mexico (Reuters) -New Mexico prosecutors on Thursday said they would drop involuntary manslaughter charges against actor Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during filming of the Western movie "Rust" in 2021.

The decision came after new evidence surfaced on the gun Baldwin was using that fired the live round that killed Hutchins, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The movie's weapons handler, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case and her prosecution will continue, state prosecutors said in a statement.

"New facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis," special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis said. "We will therefore be dismissing the involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr. Baldwin."

But they added, "This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled."

The dramatic turn in the 18-month-old case arrived on the same day that Baldwin and other cast members resumed filming the movie in Montana.

Baldwin lawyers Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro announced earlier on Thursday that charges were being dropped, which prosecutors later confirmed.

On Thursday, Baldwin posted a photo of himself with his wife, Hilaria Baldwin, on Instagram, saying, "I owe everything I have to this woman (and to you, Luke)."

Baldwin, 65, and Gutierrez-Reed, 25, were charged in January with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting on a film set outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hutchins died, and director Joel Souza was injured, when a Colt .45 revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with fired a bullet.

In a statement on Thursday, Gutierrez-Reed's lawyers Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion said, "We fully expect at the end of this process that Hannah will also be exonerated."

Baldwin was initially accused of showing a "reckless" disregard for safety in Hutchins' death. Prosecutors said video showed him with his finger on the trigger of the revolver minutes before it fired the live round.

Baldwin has said he was told the gun was "cold," an industry term meaning it did not contain ammunition with an explosive charge, and he never pulled the trigger.

Investigators have not been able to determine how live rounds made it on the set.

After an evidence viewing in the case last week, new information showed that the reproduction long Colt .45 "Peacemaker" revolver Baldwin was using had parts added to it since its manufacture by Italian gunmaker Pietta, according to the source with knowledge of the case.

"It definitely was modified, which compromises the whole argument that the gun was in fully functioning operating form and could only have fired if Baldwin pulled the trigger," the person said.

The state's prosecution has been beset by legal errors, with the most serious charge against the defendants dropped in February and two prosecutors forced to step down.

The first assistant director, Dave Halls, last month received a suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon. Prosecutors had said he was responsible for set safety.

Charges against Alec Baldwin to be dropped in 'Rust' shooting

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