1674383185 Reconstructing the Baldwin Case How a bullet shaped the career

Reconstructing the Baldwin Case: How a bullet shaped the career of one of Hollywood’s most famous actors

Only one of the 21,000 murders in the United States in 2021 occurred on the set of a film. On October 21 of the same year, while filming the western Rust, actor Alec Baldwin drew and fired a Colt 45 on a New Mexico ranch. The gun, about to be loaded with blanks, made a sound that this present described as “that of a whiplash”. A grenade erupted from the barrel, accidentally killing the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins. On Thursday, the Santa Fe prosecutor’s office announced that it will charge Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter following the death of the 42-year-old filmmaker.

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New Mexico District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said her office will file charges against Baldwin, 64, by the end of January. Additionally, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who ran the production’s armory at the age of 24, is charged with the same crime. David Halls, an assistant director, will plead guilty to negligent use of a firearm, which also injured the film’s director, Joel Souza, in the shoulder. US film industry protocols require assistant directors to check the breech of guns and notify the crew by saying “cold gun” when they are unloaded. The Colt replica has loaded.

It took prosecutors 15 months to bring charges. All this time, investigators from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office proceeded cautiously to gather information about what happened at an old church on the Bonanza Creek ranch. They delivered the final report in October 2022. On more than 500 pages, they paint a chaotic way of working on the set of a film for which Baldwin was also a producer. The document included a report prepared by an FBI lab that claimed five bullets had been found in different parts of the set. One of these projectiles was found in the costume belt of Harland Rust, the character played by Baldwin and for whom the film is named. Flaws in safety protocols have resulted in the production being fined $140,000.

A moment of the vigil organized in October 2021 to commemorate cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.A moment from the vigil organized in October 2021 to commemorate cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Andres Leighton (AP)

“The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal negligence in the shooting of Rust,” says the document, which was signed by Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor on the case, who is also a congresswoman from the Republican Party (which governs New Mexico ) is the party democrat). Criminal law experts consulted by the US press considered the prosecutor’s approach to be daring.

Penalties range from one to five years imprisonment

Lawyers believe it will be difficult to prove the involuntary manslaughter charges before a jury, even beyond a reasonable doubt. A crime that can be punished with a fine of one and a half years and up to five prison terms. Defense attorneys often recall what happened in 1993, when Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was shot and killed at the age of 31 while filming The Raven. Jerry Spivey, the District Attorney for North Carolina (where this film was filmed), decided not to press charges against the production because he did not have sufficient solid evidence.

Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s attorney, has pledged they will fight in court what they see as a “horrible flaw” in the justice system. “My client had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun or in the backdrop. He trusted the professionals he worked with, who assured him there was no ammunition in the gun,” the attorney said in a statement. In December 2021, in his first interview after the incident, Baldwin told journalist George Stephanopoulos that he did not pull the trigger during rehearsal, just pulled back the hammer on the gun. Months later, after an expert opinion, the FBI concluded that he pulled the trigger after all.

The film crew on the set of The film crew on the set of “Rust” Jae C. Hong (AP)

On the half thousand pages of the special investigation, the same question arises that has been in the room since the event. How did a bullet end up on the western set? The authorities’ document does not say so, giving hope to Baldwin’s and Gutierrez-Reed’s defense. “It’s not clear where the bullets seen in the shooting came from,” Juan Rios, a spokesman for the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office, said in November 2022.

While there are no certainties, authorities have some suspicions. Almost all point to Gutierrez-Reed, the daughter of a famous Hollywood gunsmith who made it his mission to train her in the trade. Police found bullets on an art department cart, in a shoulder bag, and in a box full of ammunition. Gutierrez-Reed, who balances her gunsmithing job with other production duties, came to the set with ammunition left over from her previous job, the western starring Nicolas Cage, The Old Way.

Gutierrez-Reed has accused Seth Kenney, the owner of a gun and ammo store in Albuquerque, of being a supplier in the film. However, prosecutors barred Kenney from the trial. In one of the court documents, you can read how the gunsmith’s father recounts that he and Kenney taught the cast to shoot at a shooting range before filming began. These practices were carried out with bullets, not blanks. Mr. Gutierrez Reed affirmed under oath that Kenney took the unused bullets that day.

Jason Bowles, Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney, has claimed the charges are the result of a “botched investigation” that “misrepresented” the events surrounding Hutchin’s death. “We believe that once we are able to uncover the truth, Hannah will be exonerated by the jury,” the attorney said.

The incident has resulted in Baldwin, a three-time Emmy winner and one-time Oscar nominee, being stopped receiving job offers. His acting has been limited to independent productions funded by the other Rust producers and a few animated films. During this time he has also participated in a few podcasts.

In October, Baldwin sealed a confidential agreement with Matthew Hutchins, the cinematographer’s widower. Under this agreement, the team must resume filming in 2023 and stipulates that any profits made at the box office will go to the deceased’s husband, who is now the film’s executive producer. But the New Mexico government court case will delay Rust’s return. The bullet that fired Alec Baldwin in October 2021 finally hit him 15 months later.

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