Prosecutors have adjusted the charges faced by actor Alec Baldwin for accidentally killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during the filming of the movie ‘Rust’. The possible punishment has decreased from a minimum of five years in prison to a maximum of 18 months.
In a statement on Monday, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said the charges would be downgraded, dropping the “firearm enhancement” from the felony penalties, which carried a five-year sentence.
The decision concerns both Baldwin, who was the lead actor and producer of the movie, as well as armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of the weapons on the film set.
The change was made “in order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys” Heather Brewer, spokesperson for Carmack-Altwies’ office, said on Monday. She added that the prosecution’s priority is “securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”
Baldwin’s legal team had been arguing that the firearm enhancement charge was “unconstitutional” as the statute defining the crime changed seven months after the accident took place and that it only carried a three-year sentence at the time of the shooting.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were charged with involuntary manslaughter last month for the accident that took place during the filming of the old Western ‘Rust’ in Bonanza City, New Mexico in October 2021.
Portraying a gunslinging outlaw, Baldwin was rehearsing for a scene where he pointed his pistol dramatically at the camera. At some point, the revolver in the actor’s hand went off and killed Ukrainian-American cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. In a startling coincidence, the movie’s plot involved Baldwin’s character, Harland Rust, trying to save his grandson, who was about to be hanged for accidentally murdering someone.
In April 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found “several management failures” in on-set safety at Rust and stated that the tragedy could have been avoided “if standard industry practices were followed.”
Baldwin was also subject to multiple civil lawsuits in addition to criminal charges. Hutchins’ husband filed a wrongful death suit against the actor, which he settled out of court in October 2022. However, the cinematographer’s Ukrainian parents and sister then brought forth a separate suit against Baldwin earlier this month, saying he never even called them.