‘Rest’: Alec Baldwin, Halyna Hutchins’ family settle lawsuit
Producers of ‘Rust’, including Alec Baldwin, have announced that they have reached a settlement with Halyna Hutchins’ family. Film production will resume in 2023.
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Baldwin, 64, and “Rust” gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will each face two counts of involuntary manslaughter, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and Special Prosecutor Andrea Reeb said in a press release.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died shortly after being wounded by a gunshot while setting up a scene at the ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 21, 2021. Baldwin pointed a gun at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and injuring the woman . director, Joel Souza.
Deputy director David Halls signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, the prosecution said. He has a suspended sentence and six months’ probation.
No charges will be filed for Souza’s shooting.
“After a thorough review of the evidence and laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” said Carmack-Altwies . “Under my care, no one is above the law and everyone deserves justice.”
Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor assigned to the case by the prosecutor, added: “If any of these three people – Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls – had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be today still alive. It’s that simple.”
“The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ movie set. There is no room in New Mexico for movie sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously,” Reeb added. .
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, who led the initial investigation into Hutchins’ death, described “a degree of neglect” on the film set. But he left decisions about possible criminal charges to prosecutors after presenting the results of a years-long investigation in October. That report did not specify how live ammunition ended up on the film set.
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Baldwin — known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” — described Hutchins’ murder as a “tragic accident.”
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Alec Baldwin sued others for handling the loaded gun
Baldwin has tried to clear his name by suing people involved in handling and delivering the loaded weapon handed to him on set. Baldwin, also a co-producer of “Rust,” said he was told the gun was safe.
In his lawsuit, Baldwin said that while working on camera angles with Hutchins during rehearsal for a scene, he pointed the gun in her direction and backed away releasing the gun’s hammer, which went off.
New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau has imposed the maximum fine on Rust Movie Productions, based on a damning story of safety errors, including testimony that production executives took limited or no action to remove two misfires of live ammunition on set prior to the fatal shooting to deal with .
Rust Movie Productions continues to challenge the basis of a $137,000 fine by regulators who say production managers on set did not follow standard industry protocols for firearm safety.
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Investigators initially found 500 rounds of ammunition on the movie set on the outskirts of Santa Fe — a mix of blanks, dummy rounds, and what appeared to be live rounds. Industry experts have said live rounds should never be on set.
The gunsmith who oversaw firearms on set, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, has been the subject of much of the investigation in the case, along with an independent ammunition supplier. A lawyer for Gutierrez Reed has said the gunmaker did not put a live bullet in the gun that killed Hutchins, and believes she was the victim of sabotage. Authorities said they found no evidence of that.
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Halyna Hutchins’ death was ruled an accident
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator determined the shooting was accidental after completing an autopsy and review of law enforcement reports.
In April 2022, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department released a trove of records, including lapel camera video of the mortally wounded Hutchins slipping in and out of consciousness as an evacuation helicopter arrived. Witness interviews, email threads, text conversations, ammunition inventories, and hundreds of photographs rounded out that evidence collection.
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Could Alec Baldwin’s gun have fired without pulling the trigger?
Guns can fire unintentionally due to mechanical failure or inadequate firearms training and handling, but is that what happened?
This is a main research question. Some weapons experts say guns can’t fire on their own, and the FBI seemed to back them up.
A FBI analysis released in August said three accidental discharge tests were conducted to determine if the gun could have fired without the trigger being pulled. Each test concluded that the gun would not have fired “without pulling the trigger”.
But the report also says the gun was in poor condition and its internal components were not intact or functional during testing.
“When an investigation of an accidental discharge is conducted, it may not be possible to recreate or duplicate all of the circumstances that led to the firing of a firearm without pulling the trigger,” the report said.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said so in December Fox news“Guns don’t just go off. So whatever needs to be done to manipulate the firearm, he did and it was in his hands.”
In February, Carmack-Altwies told Vanity Fair that her research team discovered that it is possible to fire a gun without pulling the trigger. “You can pull the hammer back without actually pulling the trigger and without actually locking it. Then when you let go, the firing pin can hit the bullet’s percussion cap,” she said.
Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, says the FBI report is “misinterpreted.”
“The gun fired only once during testing – without pulling the trigger – when the hammer was pulled back and the gun broke in two different places,” Nikas’s statement says. “The FBI was unable to fire the weapon on any previous test, not even the trigger pull, because it was in such poor condition.”
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‘Rust’ continues to film under new safety guidelines
State workplace safety regulators said immediate gun safety concerns were addressed when “Rust” stopped filming, and that a return to filming in New Mexico would be accompanied by new safety inspections.
The Hutchins family — widower Matthew Hutchins and son Andros — settled a lawsuit against producers under an agreement that aims to resume filming with Matthew’s involvement as executive producer.
“Rest” has been beset by disputes since its inception in early October 2021. Seven crew members left the set just hours before the fatal shooting amid disagreements over working conditions.
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Hutchins’ death influenced the negotiation of safety provisions in union contracts for film crews with Hollywood producers and prompted other filmmakers to choose computer-generated footage of gunfire over real guns with blank ammunition to minimize risk.
Contributors: Naledi Ushe, Maria Puente, USA TODAY; The associated press