By Mike Bedigan, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
Alec Baldwin’s “reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol” directly caused the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office has alleged.
In a report, the DA alleged the actor had shown “wilful disregard” for the safety of others in the days leading up to the incident on the Rust movie set in New Mexico.
Baldwin was not present for “mandatory” firearms training, instead undergoing a 30-minute on-set session, during which he was distracted by a phone call to his family, the DA said.
It comes as both Baldwin and the film’s armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were formally charged with two charges of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the incident in October 2021.
The charges were formally filed on Tuesday by the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office, along with a statement of probable cause.
The statement said that on the day of the shooting, there were “no less than a dozen acts, or omissions of recklessness” on the set in the period prior to the incident.
“The evidence and statements documented in this affidavit confirm many instances of extremely reckless acts or reckless failures to act by Baldwin in a 10-day period,” the statement read.
“Evidence clearly shows that none of the incidents or issues were addressed by Baldwin, in his position as actor or producer, to mitigate future occurrences of recklessness, correct reckless behaviour, or correct training deficiencies.
“Baldwin’s deviation from known standards, practice and protocol directly caused the fatal death of Hutchins.”
Referring to the moments leading up to the shooting itself, the statement added that Baldwin had pointed the weapon at Ms Hutchins which was another deviation from protocol.
“Whether guided by (Hutchins’) directions or not, Baldwin knew the first rule of gun safety is never point a gun at someone you don’t intend on shooting,” it read.
“In addition, always assume a gun is loaded. Had Baldwin performed the required safety checks with the armorer, Reed, this tragedy would not have occurred.”
The DA also said that Gutierrez-Reed was “inexperienced and unqualified” for the practice of lead armourer and “possessed no certification or certifiable training”.
The report noted that she had only been an armourer on one production prior to her work on the film.
“As the producer of a firearm intense film, evidence shows that Baldwin allowed, through acts or omissions, the hiring of inexperienced and unqualified Reed for this production, failed to mitigate or establish more precautions to protect against Reed’s inexperience, or failed to demand the minimum safety standards, protocols, and requirements on set,” the statement read.
In a separate statement, district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said: “Today we have taken another important step in securing justice for Halyna Hutchins.
“In New Mexico, no-one is above the law and justice will be served.”
Both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with the two counts of manslaughter, meaning that a jury would decide not simply if they were guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they were guilty, the DA’s office said previously.
The first charge can be referred to as involuntary manslaughter and requires proof of underlying negligence.
This charge also includes the misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law.
The second charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death.
Under New Mexico law, both charges are a fourth-degree felony and are punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a 5,000 dollar fine.
The second charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, which makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.
Negligent use of a deadly weapon charges were also filed against Rust’s assistant director David Halls, who has pleaded no contest and has entered into a plea agreement that is pending approval.
The pair will now be issued a summons with the charging information and will be required to make a first appearance at court shortly after – though this can be done virtually.
The next step after first appearance will be a preliminary hearing, where the District Attorney and the special prosecutor will present their case to the judge, who will rule whether there is probable cause to move forward with a trial.
The state has requested that the first appearance be made within 30 days, and that the preliminary hearing take place with 60 days – though exact dates have yet to be set.