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Alec Baldwin pleads not guilty in fatal ‘Rust’ film shooting

Involuntary manslaughter charge against the actor is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine

rust shooting

This aerial photo shows the movie set of “Rust” at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 23, 2021. Prosecutors have dropped the possibility of a sentence enhancement that could have carried a mandatory five-year sentence against Alec Baldwin in the fatal film-set shooting, according to new court filings made public Monday, Feb. 20, 2023.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

By Morgan Lee
Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. — Actor Alec Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a cinematographer on the set of a Western movie and waived his first formal court appearance, in court documents filed Thursday.

Baldwin and a weapons supervisor were charged last month with felony involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died shortly after being wounded during rehearsals at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe in October 2021.

Baldwin agreed to forgo a hearing to have his rights explained to him. A judge on Thursday set conditions of release that allow Baldwin to have limited contact with potential witnesses in connection with plans to complete the filming of “Rust.”

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are preparing for a likely preliminary hearing within a few months to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

Other provisions of Baldwin’s pretrial release include a prohibition on consuming alcohol and against any possession of weapons, including firearms.

“Defendant is permitted to have contact with potential witnesses only ... in connection with completing the ‘Rust’ movie and other related and unrelated business matters; provided, however, that defendant is not permitted to discuss the accident at issue,” state District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said in a signed order.

The involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin, a lead actor and co-producer on “Rust,” and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed are punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine under New Mexico law.

Authorities said Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas said when the charges were announced that they were “a terrible miscarriage of justice.” He said Baldwin relied on the professionals with whom he worked and “had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun.”

Work on “Rust” was halted with Hutchins’ death. Rust Movie Productions says filming is expected to resume this spring, without the use of real weapons or ammunition.

Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins, will be the film’s new executive producer, fulfilling the terms of a legal settlement to a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin and other “Rust” producers.

A related documentary is planned that would detail the completion of the film and the life of Hutchins.

Gutierrez-Reed is scheduled to appear remotely at a court hearing Friday, Her attorney says Gutierrez-Reed will enter a plea of not guilty.

Prosecutors say assistant director David Halls, who oversaw safety on set, has signed an agreement to plead guilty in the negligent use of a deadly weapon, explaining that he may have handled the gun improperly before it was given to Baldwin.

A judge is scheduled to consider approval of the plea agreement in March. Halls waived his first appearance in court.

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