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Alec Baldwin's Rust shooting charges have already been reduced

The A.V. Club 2/21/2023 Hattie Lindert
Alec Baldwin © Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images) Alec Baldwin

Less than a month after Alec Baldwin was formally charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust, his charges have already been significantly reduced.

Per IndieWire, the prosecution in Baldwin’s case has opted to drop the charge of breaking New Mexico’s firearm enhancement statute. Prosecutors filed the altered charges against Baldwin and his fellow defendant Hannah Gutierrez-Reed on Friday.

“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 spokesperson for the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney, shared in a statement to The A.V. Club. “The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”

Under New Mexico law, the firearm enhancement statute that Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed had initially faced carries a minimum sentence of five years if a defendant is convicted. Without that charge, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed only face an involuntary manslaughter charge in Hutchins’ death, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 18 months. The two were initially charged with involuntary manslaughter on January 31.

“We applaud the decision of the District Attorney to dismiss the firearm enhancement and it was the right call, ethically, and on the merits,” Jason Bowles, an attorney for Gutierrez-Reed, shared in a statement with IndieWire.

The reduced charges also mark a success for Baldwin’s attorneys, who filed a motion to have the firearm enhancement charge dismissed earlier this month. Baldwin’s legal team alleged that the DA’s decision to charge Baldwin with breaking the statute constituted a “basic legal error.” The firearm enhancement statute the initial charges cited didn’t come into effect in New Mexico until May 2022, seven months after the shooting occurred in November 2021. Per Baldwin’s attorneys, charging him with violating the law “would be unconstitutionally retroactive, and the government has no legitimate basis.”

As Baldwin’s case carries on, production is also somehow moving forward on Rust itself, with Baldwin still in the lead role amid a variety of reported crew changes. As part of a settlement reached between Baldwin and Hutchins’ estate, the late cinematographer’s husband Matthew Hutchins is serving as executive producer, while Hutchins’ parents and her sister have filed their own suit against Baldwin.

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