Alec Baldwin is no longer facing years behind bars in connection to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, as the Santa Fe District Attorney’s office announced Monday that it is downgrading the involuntary manslaughter charges against both him and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
Baldwin would have faced a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years if convicted under a New Mexico firearm law that was passed months after a gun he had been holding discharged on the set of Rust, killing Hutchins. Instead, he and Gutierrez-Reed now face a maximum of 18 months in prison.
District attorney spokesperson Heather Brewer said in a statement that the prosecution had downgraded the charges “to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys.”
“The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys,” Brewer added.
On Oct. 21, 2021, Baldwin pointed a .45-caliber Colt revolver at Hutchins during a rehearsal on the Santa Fe set of the movie Rust. Baldwin has said that he did not pull the trigger of the gun, which fatally shot Hutchins in the chest, though an FBI report found that the weapon could not have been fired without pulling the trigger.
Baldwin’s lawyers had previously argued that the firearm law had been misapplied since it was not passed until 2022, months after the shooting took place. In a Feb. 10 filing, Baldwin’s lawyer Luke Nikas wrote, “The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a version of the firearm enhancement statute that did not exist on the date of the accident.”
Jason Bowles, a lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed, told The New York Times that the decision to downgrade the charges “reflected good ethical standards and was correct on the facts and law.”
Despite the newly downgraded charge against Baldwin, recent court filings appear to show the prosecution gearing up for a fight. The state filed an amended witness list for preliminary hearing last Thursday that included Matthew Hutchins, the widower of Halyna. Last month, charging documents made public slammed Baldwin for an alleged “willful disregard for safety,” including a firearm training with Gutierrez-Reed where the actor was allegedly “distracted and talking on his cell phone to his family.”
The producers of Rust announced on Feb. 14 that production will resume this spring. Hutchins’ estate reached a settlement with Baldwin and the producers over a wrongful death lawsuit last October, in part agreeing that Matthew Hutchins would join as an executive producer on the film.
The initial hearing for the case is set for Feb. 24.