OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Actor Alec Baldwin is breathing fire after it was announced that he would face involuntary manslaughter charges in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of his movie “Rust.”
“This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win,” the actor’s attorney Luke Nikas said, Access Hollywood reported.
Hutchins’ family supported the decision of the district attorney in a press release.
“We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life,” the family said via its attorney Brian J. Panish. “Our independent investigation also supports charges are warranted. It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law.”
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with the two counts of manslaughter, which means that a jury will not only decide if they are guilty but also under which definition of involuntary manslaughter.
Under New Mexico law, if found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, it is a fourth-degree felony, and they could face up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
If found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act would require proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. This charge is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5000 fine. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, a mandatory penalty, because a firearm was involved. The firearm enhancement makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.
“If any one of these three people—Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls—had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple,” special prosecutor Andrea Reeb said. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”
The district attorney said to CNN that she spoke to some actors, including some “A list” celebrities, who informed her that they “always check their guns or have someone check it front of them.”
“An actor does not get a free pass just because they are an actor. That is what is so important. We are saying here in New Mexico, that everyone is equal under the law,” she said.
“He didn’t check it. He didn’t do any of things he was supposed to do to make sure that he was safe or that anyone around him was safe,” she said of Baldwin.
The armorer on the set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case.
Assistant Director David Halls agreed to a plea deal to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and no charges were filed in relation to the non-fatal shooting of director Joel Souza.
“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”