Alec Baldwin to be charged with involuntary manslaughter
"Rust" set. Image courtesy: Jae C. Hong/AP/FILE

Prosecutors have confirmed that actor and producer Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter over the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is also going to be charged.

What happened?

In October 2021, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally injured on the movie set of “Rust” in New Mexico. The tragedy occurred when lead actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun after being reportedly told it didn’t contain a live round. We covered the story back in 2021, and you can read more about it here.

What are the charges?

Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed are both going to be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. The jury in the trial will have to decide between the two counts if Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are found guilty. For the first charge of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecution must prove that Hutchins’ death was due to underlying negligence. The second charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. This charge requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death.

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What are the penalties?

The first charge of involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony. Under New Mexico law, the penalty for this is up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. However, the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act has higher penalties. It is also a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. But in addition, it has a firearm enhancement which makes the crime punishable by a mandatory term of five years in jail.

Why are there criminal charges if it was an accident?

In an interview with CNN, New Mexico District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies explained why criminal charges are going to be brought up for Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. “Just because it is an accident doesn’t mean that it’s not criminal,” she said. “Our involuntary manslaughter statute covers unintentional killings, unintentional homicides. Unintentional means they didn’t mean to do it, they didn’t have the intent to kill, but it happened anyway — and it happened because of more than mere negligence, because they didn’t exercise due caution or circumspection, and that’s what happened here.”

What happens next?

District Attorney Carmack-Altwies has said that she will file the charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed before the end of January. They will have to attend an arraignment hearing but will not be arrested. Attorneys for both Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed have criticized the decision to charge their clients. The attorneys have also made statements saying they will fight the charges and are confident their clients will be found not guilty.

Will anyone else be charged?

District Attorney Carmack-Altwies has said that no one else is going to be charged over the death of Halyna Hutchins. However, the Assistant Director of “Rust,” David Halls, has already signed a plea agreement for the charge of “negligent use of a deadly weapon.” As a part of that agreement, Halls has accepted six months of probation and a suspended sentence.

Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.