Rust armourer sentenced to max prison time. What does this mean for Alec Baldwin?

Actor maintains that he never pulled the trigger on the replica gun that was used in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins

Graig Graziosi
Monday 15 April 2024 22:53 BST
Related video: Baldwin had no control of his emotions, prosecutors say

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armourer who worked on the set of Rust, has been sentenced to 18 months in a women's correctional facility in New Mexico after she was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of the film's cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.

The sentence was handed down Monday after Gutierrez-Reed's defence attorneys tried, without success, to convince the judge to give her probation instead of prison time.

Gutierrez-Reed won't be the only person to face trial over the cinematographer's death this year; the producer and lead actor on Rust, Alec Baldwin, has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’s death. He also faces a maximum of 18 months in prison and a potential $5,000 fine. His trial is scheduled to begin on 10 July.

While Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for firearms maintenance and safety on set, it was Baldwin who was holding the gun when Hutchins was shot and killed. With Gutierrez-Reed headed for prison, what does this mean for Baldwin?

The 65-year-old, known for his roles as Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October and as Jack Donaghy on NBC's 30 Rock sitcom, produced and starred in Rust. The Western used numerous props and replicas of era-appropriate firearms.

Alec Baldwin, appearing here at the 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala, will go to court to face involuntary manslaughter charges on 10 July
Alec Baldwin, appearing here at the 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala, will go to court to face involuntary manslaughter charges on 10 July (AFP via Getty Images)

Baldwin, Hutchins, and director Joel Souza were rehearsing a scene on 21 October 2021 when he performed a cross-draw with his replica pistol. The pistol — which had inadvertently been loaded with a live round by Gutierrez-Reed earlier that day — fired, hitting Hutchins in the chest, passing through her, and then wounding Mr Souza.

Hutchins, 42, died from the wound. Mr Souza survived.

Baldwin was indicted by a grand jury in January. He entered a not-guilty plea later that month.

The actor's indictment was the second time he was charged over Hutchins's death. He was previously charged in January 2023 and pleaded not guilty to that charge as well.

Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies stepped away from the case in March 2024 after Baldwin's attorneys moved to have the special prosecutor leading the investigation, Andrea Reeb, disqualified from the proceedings. Baldwin's attorneys argued that Ms Reeb, who also serves in the state's House of Representatives, could not simultaneously exercise both legislative and judicial power under the law, ABC News reports.

Ms Reeb ultimately agreed to step down.

"It has become clear that the best way I can ensure justice is served in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on the evidence and the facts, which clearly show a complete disregard for basic safety protocols led to the death of Halyna Hutchins," she said during a statement.

Prosecutors formally dismissed Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter charges the following month, citing new evidence and a need for further investigation, but insisting that the case was still open and under investigation.

By January 2024, prosecutors believed they had enough evidence to prove that Baldwin had "criminal culpability" in Hutchins’s death and called a grand jury.

A musician plays a violin behind a photograph of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a vigil in her honor in Albuquerque, N.M
A musician plays a violin behind a photograph of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a vigil in her honor in Albuquerque, N.M (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In addition to holding the gun that fired the shot that killed Hutchins, Baldwin has been accused by the defence attorneys representing Gutierrez-Reed of running a rushed, unsafe production.

During Gutierrez-Reed's trial, witnesses described unplanned firearms discharges and a set unlike others they had worked on. Ross Addiego, who worked as a dolly grip on the film, said he was used to having safety meetings daily — sometimes more than once a day — on other sets, but recalled Rust only calling a single safety meeting.

Witnesses also told the court that a crew of seven camera operators walked off the set on the morning that Hutchins died, citing safety concerns following the accidental firearm discharges and issues with their housing.

“There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that [accidental discharges] wouldn’t happen again,” a crew member who walked off-set told the Los Angeles Times. “All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”

Last week, prosecutors issued a legal filing arguing that “safety compromises” on Rust’s set were the result of Baldwin having “absolutely no control of his own emotions”.

The filing claims that Baldwin frequently cursed and screamed at his crew and that he demanded Gutierrez-Reed “work faster.”

Alec Baldwin in costume on the set of Rust
Alec Baldwin in costume on the set of Rust (Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office)

“To watch Mr Baldwin’s conduct on the set of Rust is to witness a man who has absolutely no control of his own emotions and absolutely no concern for how his conduct affects those around him,” prosecutor Kari Morrissey, who also led the state’s case against Gutierrez-Reed, wrote in the filing. “Witnesses have testified that it was this exact conduct that contributed to safety compromises on set.”

In addition to his conduct on set, one of the key questions likely to come up during Baldwin's trial is whether or not he actually pulled the trigger on the replica gun that fired and killed Hutchins. Baldwin had maintained that he never pulled the trigger and that the replica malfunctioned and fired on its own.

During Gutierrez-Reed's trial, Bryce Ziegler, an FBI firearms expert who tested the replica, said that it would have been impossible for the gun to fire without the trigger being pulled. Mr Ziegler said he had to break the pistol with a mallet before he could force it to fire without a trigger pull.

In his opening statements, Gutierrez-Reed's defence attorney, Jason Bowles, pointed the blame directly at Baldwin and accused him and the other producers of using his client as an “easy target” in an effort to avoid blame for Hutchins’ death.

“You’re going hear again Mr Baldwin — one of the lead producers, head actor in the movie, who really controlled the set — you’re going to hear that he violated some of the most basic gun-safety rules you can ever learn,” he said.

“From a young age, we all learn you don’t point a gun at somebody ever unless you want to shoot them. You treat all guns as loaded, and you keep your finger out of the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. [Baldwin] violated all those.”

Following his indictment, Baldwin’s attorneys said “We look forward to our day in court.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in