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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Dani Anguiano

Rust film armorer sentenced to 18 months in prison for fatal on-set shooting

The chief weapons handler on Rust was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the 2021 fatal, on-set shooting of the movie’s cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by the actor Alec Baldwin.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in March for mistakenly loading a live round into the revolver Baldwin used in the film. The judge in the case said on Monday she had failed to take responsibility for her role in Hutchins’s death and sentenced her to prison.

“You were the armorer – the one that stood between a safe weapon and a weapon that could kill someone,” Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said. “You alone turned a safe weapon into a lethal weapon. But for you Ms Hutchins would be alive, a husband would have his partner and a little boy would have his mother.”

Her punishment is the most substantial criminal consequence yet in the legal fallout over Hutchins’s death. But the case, which has captivated Hollywood and the US, is still far from over.

The trial for Baldwin, who was both an actor and co-producer on the film, is set for 10 July after a grand jury indicted him for involuntary manslaughter.

A Santa Fe jury on 6 March took less than two hours to find Gutierrez-Reed guilty of involuntary manslaughter, with one juror afterwards saying the defendant had not done “her job” to ensure weapons safety on set.

During the trial, prosecutors accused Gutierrez-Reed of failing to follow essential safety procedures and said the weapons supervisor had loaded the fully functioning revolver used by Baldwin with dummy rounds and at least one live round. The shooting killed Hutchins, 42, and wounded the film’s director, Joel Souza.

“She was negligent, she was careless, she was thoughtless,” said Kari Morrissey, the prosecutor.

The prosecution requested 18 months for Gutierrez-Reed, pointing to jailhouse phone calls in which the armorer blamed Baldwin and others for the shooting and said the judge had been “paid off”.

Gutierrez-Reed’s defense asked the judge to consider probation and said that the incident was a “cascade of tragedy” with “multiple systems failures by multiple people”.

“I beg you please don’t give me more time,” Gutierrez-Reed told the court on Monday, adding that her “heart ached” for Hutchins’s family.

The judge said she was weighing three options for sentencing: probation – the only option in which Gutierrez-Reed would avoid a felony conviction on her record and could continue to possess firearms – letting her remain at the county jail for one year and serve out the remainder of her sentence under probation, or prison.

The armorer was responsible for ensuring the safety of weapons on set and had plenty of time to check the gun used by Baldwin, but failed to do so, Sommer said. In recent calls from jail, where she has been held since her conviction, the judge said Gutierrez-Reed did not take accountability and lamented the impact of the case on her modeling career.

“Hannah says she’s looking at 13 months, which is ridiculous,” Sommers said, quoting the calls. “Hannah says ‘people have accidents and people die. It’s an unfortunate part of life’, but it doesn’t mean she should be in jail.”

A conditional discharge would not be appropriate, Sommers said, and allowing Gutierrez-Reed to remain in the detention center rather than prison “would be giving you a pass you do not deserve”.

Hutchins’s death initially prompted US film and television productions to stop using real firearms and blank ammunition. Two and a half years later, they are returning as productions favor their realistic effects, according to armorers.

The shooting fueled outcry about dangerous working conditions in Hollywood. Crew members who testified at Gutierrez-Reed’s trial had described a chaotic set where safety was “secondary” with one stating that production had been working at “ludicrous speeds”.

Baldwin shot Hutchins to death when he pointed his gun at the cinematographer and the weapon fired the live round as she set up a camera shot. The actor denies pulling the trigger. The FBI and an independent firearms expert found the gun would not fire without the trigger depressed.

Baldwin is accused of causing Hutchins’s death either by negligence or “total disregard or indifference” for safety. Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney had argued that she was being used as a scapegoat and that Baldwin was responsible for what occurred.

“It was not in the script for Mr Baldwin to point the weapon,” defense attorney Jason Bowles said during the trial. “She didn’t know that Mr Baldwin was going to do what he did.”

Previous on-set fatal shootings of actors Brandon Lee in 1993 and Jon-Erik Hexum in 1984 involved blank rounds.

  • Reuters contributed to this report

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