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Alec Baldwin pleaded not guilty to manslaughter

SANTA FE, NM — Actor Alec Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to a manslaughter charge in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer during rehearsal on the set of a Western movie in New Mexico.

Court documents filed Wednesday show Baldwin entered the plea in state district court in Santa Fe and waived a hearing scheduled for the next day via remote video conference.

Baldwin, who starred and co-produced the Western film “Rust,” was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal outside Santa Fe in October 2021 when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

A grand jury in Santa Fe indicted Baldwin in January after prosecutors received a new analysis of the gun in question, renewing the charge that prosecutors originally filed and dismissed in April 2023. Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

Baldwin will remain free until the hearing, under conditions that include not possessing a firearm, consuming alcohol or leaving the country. Baldwin has had limited contact with witnesses when it comes to promoting “Rust,” which is not publicly released. Baldwin is prohibited from asking the “Rust” cast or crew to participate in a related documentary film.

Baldwin said he pulled back the hammer but did not pull the trigger and the gun went off.

“Halyna and I had something deeply in common, and that was that we both assumed the gun was unloaded… except for those fake bullets,” Baldwin told George Stephanopoulos in an interview aired on ABC News in December 2021.

The grand jury indictment presents special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis with two alternative standards for pursuing felony charges against Baldwin.

One of these is based on negligent use of a firearm. A second alternative for prosecutors is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Baldwin caused Hutchins’ death without due caution or “prudence,” which is also defined as “an act committed with complete disregard or indifference to the safety of others.”

An analysis of the gun by Lucien and Michael Haag of Forensic Science Services in Arizona concluded that “the trigger must be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence gun.”

An earlier FBI report on the agency’s analysis of the gun found that it could be fired without pulling the trigger if force was applied, such as dropping the gun on an uncocked hammer, as is common with firearms of this design. The gun eventually broke during testing.

Morrissey and Lewis denied the earlier accusation after being informed that the gun might have been altered and malfunctioning before the shooting.

The grand jury heard from a “Rust” crew member who was feet away from the fatal shooting and another who left the set before the shooting to protest working conditions. Weapons forensics expert Michael Haag, a Mississippi-based film armorer and detective with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, also testified.

“Rust” gun supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was also charged with involuntary manslaughter, and her jury trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 22. Reed pleaded not guilty to that charge and a second charge of tampering with evidence in Hutchins’ death.

Gutierrez-Reed was also accused of carrying a gun into a bar in downtown Santa Fe days before he was hired as an armorer on “Rust.” He also did not accept this accusation.

The fatal shooting of Hutchins resulted in a series of civil lawsuits, including wrongful death claims filed by members of Hutchins’ family, focusing on accusations that Baldwin and “Rust” producers were lax in safety standards. Baldwin and the other defendants disputed these allegations.

“Rust” assistant director and safety coordinator David Halls was sentenced to six months probation last March after pleading no contest to unsafe handling of a firearm. He agreed to cooperate with the investigation of the fatal shooting.

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