Criminal charges against Alec Baldwin will be dropped in the Rust case, Yahoo Entertainment has confirmed. The actor faced two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the accidental shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The film's weapons handler, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is still charged; however her attorneys believe she will be "exonerated," too.
"We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident," the actor's attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, tell Yahoo.
Baldwin thanked his wife, Hilaria, and lawyer on social media after news broke.
The decision comes one month after special prosecutor Andrea Reeb stepped down from the case. Baldwin's lawyers argued her appointment was unconstitutional due to her status as a Republican lawmaker in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Newly appointed special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis are expected to dismiss Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed's charges without prejudice. That means both could be charged in the future as they continue their investigation; however, that appears unlikely.
Gutierrez-Reed's attorneys praised the new special prosecutors.
"The new special prosecutor team has taken a very diligent and thorough approach to the entire investigation, which we welcome and have always welcomed," Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion tell Yahoo in a statement. "They are seeking the truth and we are also. The truth about what happened will come out and the questions that we have long sought answers for will be answered. We fully expect at the end of this process that Hannah will also be exonerated."
Special prosecutors Morrissey and Lewis issued the following statement late on Thursday:
Over the last few days and in preparation for the May 3, 2023, preliminary hearing, new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis in the case against Alexander “Alec” Rae Baldwin, III. Consequently, we cannot proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form. We therefore will be dismissing the involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr. Baldwin to conduct further investigation. This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled. Our follow-up investigation will remain active and on-going.
Charges against Hannah Gutierrez-Reed remain unchanged. No further statements will be made at this time.
Earlier this year, Baldwin pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. If found guilty, he faced up to 18 months in prison. However, the case faced issues from the beginning.
When it was first announced Baldwin would be criminally charged, he faced five years in prison if convicted on the most serious count of involuntary manslaughter. That was because prosecutors included a five-year mandatory firearm enhancement; however, the law did not exist at the time of the Rust shooting on Oct. 21, 2021. The downgraded charge was a big win for the Emmy-winning actor.
"In order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor have removed the firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the Rust film set," Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico First District Attorney, told Yahoo Entertainment of that earlier decision. "The prosecution's priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys."
When Reeb stepped down, it appeared to be another blow to the prosecution in terms of public perception.
"After much reflection, I have made the difficult decision to step down as special prosecutor in the Rust case. My priority in this case — and in every case I've prosecuted in my 25-year career — has been justice for the victim," the office of New Mexico's First Judicial District Attorney said in a statement. "However, it has become clear that the best way I can ensure justice is served in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on the evidence and the facts, which clearly show a complete disregard for basic safety protocols led to the death of Halyna Hutchins. I will not allow questions about my serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand."
Baldwin was rehearsing with the gun that went off and killed Hutchins. He's maintained that he did not pull the trigger. Gutierrez-Reed had been responsible for handling the weapons on the set. Production on Rust, with Baldwin at the helm, is set to resume this week with the support of Hutchins's widower.