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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Dani Anguiano in Los Angeles

Alec Baldwin pleads not guilty to new charge in fatal shooting on Rust film set

Older white man, slicked back gray hair, in suit.
Alec Baldwin in New York City on 22 June 2021. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Actor Alec Baldwin entered a not guilty plea on Wednesday on a new involuntary manslaughter charge in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a New Mexico movie set in October 2021.

The actor was indicted earlier this month in the shooting, nearly a year after prosecutors dropped similar charges against him. At the time, the prosecutor’s office said that it would continue investigating the matter and that it could refile charges.

Baldwin made the plea as he waived his right to an arraignment, court documents showed.

Prosecutors brought the case before the grand jury in Santa Fe earlier this month, alleging that Baldwin caused Hutchins’s death either by negligence or “total disregard or indifference” for safety. The grand jury opted to indict.

Baldwin, who also served as a co-producer on the western drama, was pointing a gun at Hutchins during an October 2021 rehearsal when the weapon fired, hitting her and wounding the film’s director, Joel Souza. Hutchins died at a nearby hospital.

Baldwin has said that he pulled back the hammer of the gun before it fired, but that he did not pull the trigger. In a 2021 interview, he said he had believed the weapon had been safe and loaded with blanks, and denied responsibility for the shooting.

“I feel someone is responsible for what happened, but I know it isn’t me. I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don’t say that lightly,” he said.

Young white woman with chin-length blond hair and green flowered bomber jacket smiles in front of blue-and-yellow backdrop for a press photo.
Halyna Hutchins at the Sundance film festival on 19 January 2018 in Park City, Utah. Photograph: Mat Hayward/Getty Images for AMC Networks

The prosecution’s case centers on his role as an actor holding the weapon as well as his role as a co-producer with legal responsibility for production safety.

Prosecutors had previously dropped charges against Baldwin based on evidence that the hammer of the revolver might have been modified, allowing it to fire without the trigger being pulled.

But an independent forensic test commissioned by prosecutors concluded that Baldwin would have had to pull the trigger of the revolver for it to have fired the live round that struck Hutchins in the chest and killed her.

“Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” the analysis states.

Baldwin’s defense has described the situation as a “terrible tragedy” that “has been turned into this misguided prosecution”.

“We look forward to our day in court,” Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, defense attorneys for Baldwin, said earlier this month in response to news of the indictment.

David Halls, the film’s assistant director who handed the weapon to Baldwin, was sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence with unsupervised probation, a $500 fine, 24 hours of community service and a firearms safety class on a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon in connection with the case.

The movie’s chief weapons handler, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who had handled the gun before Halls, has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter and faces trial this year.

Baldwin and his co-producers also face civil lawsuits seeking financial compensation, including from members of the Rust crew. The actor reached an undisclosed settlement with Hutchins’s family in 2022.

The Rust Movie Productions company paid a $100,000 fine to workplace safety regulators in New Mexico.

The film resumed production in April of last year with Matthew Hutchins, the husband of the late cinematographer, as an executive producer.

Reuters contributed reporting

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