Prosecutors have dropped a five-year gun upgrade against Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed after defendants argued the law didn’t apply at the time the Rust set was filmed.
Baldwin, the film’s star, and Gutierrez-Reed, the gunsmith, now face a maximum sentence of just 18 months if convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
When the indictment was filed on January 31, prosecutors were trying to enforce a law that would provide tougher penalties for gun crimes. Under New Mexico law, defendants face an additional five years in prison if a gun is fired in the course of a felony.
However, that law did not come into effect until May 2022, seven months after Hutchins’ death. The weapons enhancement, in effect in October 2021, required the defendant to “show intent to intimidate or harm any person,” which did not apply to the accidental shooting of Hutchins.
“In order to avoid further contentious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the District Attorney and the Special Attorney have removed the involuntary manslaughter charge in connection with the death of Halyna Hutchins on the ‘Rust’ film set from the firearms extension,” said Heather Brewer, a DA Office spokeswoman. “The priority of the prosecution is to ensure justice, not to ensure billable hours for big city attorneys.”
Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas, in a Feb. 10 filing, argued that prosecutors made a “fundamental error of law” in charging an amendment that was not on the books at the time of the “Rust” shooting. Nikas argued that this was a clear violation of constitutional protections against “ex post facto” prosecutions.
Jason Bowles, Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney, filed a motion that same day making essentially the same argument.
“We applaud the district attorney’s decision to dismiss the weapon upgrade, and it was the right decision, ethically and on substance,” Bowles said in an email.
Baldwin’s attorney declined to comment.
In its initial response, the prosecutor’s office called the motion a diversion and attacked Baldwin’s “freaky attorneys.”
Baldwin has also sought to disqualify Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor on the case, because she is a member of the state House of Representatives. Baldwin’s attorneys argue that under the separation of powers provision of the state constitution, she cannot serve as both prosecutor and legislator.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are set to be charged via Google Meet on Friday.