Actor Alec Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the “Rust” movie set on October 21, 2021. He and Armorer Hannah Reed were formally charged for her death on January 31, 2023. There have been quite a few updates in the last two months. Here are the four setbacks that the district attorney’s office had suffered during that time.
Setback #1 – Second Charge Dropped
Alec Baldwin and Hannah Reed were each charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. The first charge was involuntary manslaughter. The second charge was involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act.
The second charge has a special gun enhancement that added a five-year prison term. Which didn’t become law until May 18, 2022, seven months after the shooting took place. The U.S. Constitution prohibits retroactively charging defendants with new laws that didn’t exist at the time of the crime.
The Baldwin defense team filed a motion to dismiss the second charge on February 10, 2023.
A testy email exchange came out between them and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb. Reeb demanded that the motion be withdrawn because the defense was in error. If the defense couldn’t follow proper procedures, they could face sanctions by the court.
Reeb admitted three hours later that the defense was correct about the second charge. She was unaware that the law had changed since the shooting took place. A serious oversight since the district attorney’s office is responsible for staying current with state law.
Reeb filed a new legal complaint with only the first charge. The defense withdrew its motion about the second charge. Baldwin and Reed still face 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Setback # 2 – Ignored By The Judge
Hannah Reed appeared virtually in court but didn’t enter a plea on February 23, 2023. Since the state released her personal info, she had received threatening voicemails and got a restraining order against a stalker. She requested a gun for self-protection at home.
The prosecution attempted to block her request and argued that she could get “pepper spray or a bat” instead. Since Reed’s handling of the gun got someone killed on the set of “Rust,” she can’t be trusted with a gun at home.
The judge ignored the prosecution’s request and granted Reed a gun.
Setback #3 – Special Prosecutor Stepped Down
Alec Baldwin’s defense team had filed a motion to disqualify special prosecutor Andrea Reeb on February 7, 2023. Arguing that her role as a special prosecutor conflicted with her role as a state lawmaker. Working for two different branches of the state government was unconstitutional.
The district attorney’s office dismissed the motion as being a legal diversion.
Reeb was running for state representative when appointed as the special prosecutor and later won her election. She should have resigned as special prosecutor before starting her new job as a lawmaker.
Reeb stepped down as special prosecutor two weeks before the scheduled hearing on March 27, 2023 about the motion.
First Assistant Director David Halls’ attorney contributed $250 and investigator contributed $500 to her campaign. Everyone denied that the campaign contributions had any influence on Halls plea agreement. Halls received a suspended sentence and six months of unsupervised probation this week.
Setback #4 – The District Attorney Steps Away
District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced that she is stepping away from the “Rust” shooting case this week. The judge pointed out in an earlier hearing that the special prosecutor law doesn’t allow the D.A. to remain on the case. The D.A. appointed two New Mexico attorneys as special prosecutors.
Why is the D.A. is relying on the special prosecutor law to pursue Alec Baldwin and Hannah Reed?
The D.A.’s office is short of one attorney and funding to handle their regular case load. Appointing a special prosecutor allows the D.A.’s office to tap into state funding. If the D.A.’s office had to handle the case on its own, it would have to drop all charges.
Considering how the D.A.’s office had handled the case so far, dropping the charges seems likely.
The next hearing is scheduled for the first half of May 2023. The district attorney’s office will present its case and the defense can challenge the evidence.
“Rust” resumes filming at the Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana. Alec Baldwin can’t talk to any of the witnesses about the case or have access to firearms. Considering what happened last time on the set, guns and gun-related special effects will be added in post-production.