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SAG-AFTRA Defends Alec Baldwin In ‘Rust’ Shooting As Actor Prepares To Defend Himself Against New Charge
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 30: Hilaria Baldwin and Alec Baldwin attend 2023 American Museum Of Natural History Gala at American Museum of Natural History on November 30, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
John Lamparski/WireImage

Alec Baldwin awaits his next court date later this year following his not guilty plea in the shooting on the New Mexico film set of “Rust” in 2021 that left Ukrainian  cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead and director Joel Souza injured.

The 65-year-old actor faces a new involuntary manslaughter charge in the fatal shooting and the case against him now must be made by prosecutors who decided to charge the “Saturday Night Live” star for a second time, after previously dismissing charges against him without prejudice, reported.

New Charge

On January 31, Baldwin entered a “not guilty” plea through his attorney and waived his right to an arraignment, after a grand jury indicted the actor for involuntary manslaughter, as previously reported. If convicted, Baldwin could spend up to 18 months in prison.

According to the New York Times, if the case goes to trial, prosecutors will have to prove to a jury either Baldwin’s negligence with the use of a firearm or that he acted with “total disregard or indifference for the safety of others.”

In the case of New Mexico vs. Alexander (Alec) Rae Baldwin, the Times noted jurors will have to deal with two questions: Number one, “Should Mr. Baldwin have known of the danger involved in his actions that day?” and two, “Did he [Baldwin] act with a ‘willful disregard for the safety of others?’”

Alec Baldwin on the set of "Rust." IMDB. El Dorado Pictures.

IMDB. El Dorado Pictures.

The challenge for Baldwin’s legal team will be to explain why the gun was fired in the first place. According to Variety, special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis presented a report to the grand jury showing that the shooting occurred by a “pull or rearward depression of the trigger,” something Baldwin previously had been adamant he hadn’t done.

“This fatal incident was the consequence of the hammer being manually retracted to its fully rearward and cocked position followed, at some point, by the pull or rearward depression of the trigger,” the report concluded. “Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver.”

Baldwin’s attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, released a statement after the indictment and said, “We look forward to our day in court,” Deadline noted.

Feeling The Pressure

The pressure of the new charge is reportedly getting to Baldwin and his wife Hilaria, after a source told People magazine that the couple called the new charge “frustrating” and “very stressful.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 18: Alec Baldwin and Hilaria Baldwin attend the 2023 PEN America Literary Gala at American Museum of Natural History on May 18, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for PEN America)

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for PEN America

“They had a great Christmas and New Year. Hilaria also just turned 40. This is not how they wanted to start the new year,” the source told the outlet.

“It’s stressful for Hilaria. It’s frustrating for them both that Alec is being recharged. They knew there was a possibility there would be a new indictment,” they added. “The back and forth is hard. It’s very stressful.”

SAG-AFTRA Defends Baldwin

Shortly after the Grand Jury indicted the actor, the actor’s union SAG-AFTRA came to Baldwin’s defense and said in a lengthy statement, “an actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert.”

“To the extent that the charges filed on January 19 are based on an accusation of negligent use of a firearm predicated on this or any actor having a duty to inspect a firearm as part of its use, that is an incorrect assessment of the actual duties of an actor on set,” the statement read.

The guidelines require an experienced, qualified armorer to be put in charge of all handling, use, and safekeeping of firearms on set,” the statement added. “These duties include ‘inspecting the firearm and barrel before and after every firing sequence,’ and ‘checking all firearms before each use.'”

“The guidelines do not make it the performer’s responsibility to check any firearm,” the statement continued. “Performers train to perform, and they are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use. The industry assigns that responsibility to qualified professionals who oversee their use and handling in every aspect. Anyone issued a firearm on set must be given training and guidance in its safe handling and use, but all activity with firearms on a set must be under the careful supervision and control of the professional armorer and the employer.”

History Of The Case

In January 2023, the Santa Fe County District Attorney’s Office charged Baldwin with two counts of involuntary manslaughter following the Oct. 2021 shooting of Hutchins on the New Mexico film set. The firearm Baldwin was holding discharged a bullet. Baldwin has repeatedly maintained that there was “no trigger pull.”

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - OCTOBER 27: Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza (L) looks on as First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies for the state of New Mexico speaks during a press conference at the Santa Fe County Public Safety Building to update members of the media on the shooting accident on the set of the movie "Rust" at the on October 27, 2021 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. On October 21, 2021, Director of Photography Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured on set while filming the movie "Rust" at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The film's star and also a producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm and a bullet hit Hutchins and Souza. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

Sam Wasson/Getty Images

At the time, Nikas said that Baldwin “had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set,” CBS News reported.

“He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds,” he added. “We will fight these charges, and we will win.” 

The charges were dismissed without prejudice in April after the actor’s legal team claimed the gun had been modified in some way which caused it to malfunction, the Associated Press noted.

Prosecutors made clear at the time, “This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled.”

“The gun and broken sear have been sent to the state’s independent expert for further testing,” the office said at the time. “The charges against Alec Baldwin were dismissed without prejudice because a possible malfunction of the gun significantly affects causation with regard to Baldwin, not with regard to Gutierrez. If it is determined that the gun did not malfunction, charges against Mr. Baldwin will proceed.”

The state of New Mexico brought in gun analysts Lucien Haag and Mike Haag in its case against “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed to determine if the gun had been modified. That report determined the “trigger had to [be] pulled or depressed.”

The set of "Rust." IMDB. El Dorado Pictures.

The set of “Rust.” IMDB. El Dorado Pictures.

Nikas’ previous argument will likely be used once more to fight the new charge, as the Times points out, after investigators in the case had found Baldwin had reason to believe the gun he was rehearsing with, on the day of the fatal shooting, contained no live rounds, and the fact that there’s never supposed to be any live ammunition on a film set.

According to People magazine, Baldwin was expected back in court to face the charge against him on Aug. 6. But as The Hollywood Reporter points out, when the judge on the case was reassigned, the trial was postponed.

Other Charges In ‘Rust’ Shooting

In March 2023, NPR reported “Rust” assistant director and safety coordinator David Halls pleaded no contest to unsafe handling of a firearm and received a suspended sentence of six months of probation.

Gutierrez-Reed was charged with involuntary manslaughter and pleaded not guilty in August, the AP noted. Her trial is set for February 21, 2024, Variety noted.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  SAG-AFTRA Defends Alec Baldwin In ‘Rust’ Shooting As Actor Prepares To Defend Himself Against New Charge