Alec Baldwin pleads not guilty over fatal Rust film set shooting

The actor faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted over the 2021 incident

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Actor Alec Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter over the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of Western Rust in 2021.

Baldwin, 64, made the plea on Thursday while waiving a court appearance on Friday. It was set to be his first in the case on how live ammunition became mixed with dummy rounds on the Santa Fe film set and then went undetected.

Last month, New Mexico's first judicial district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies charged Baldwin and the movie's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for alleged "reckless" disregard for safety prior to Hutchins' death.

Prosecutors last week downgraded charges against Gutierrez-Reed and Baldwin, reducing the possible prison time for the actor who fired the live round that killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza while rehearsing a scene in front of the camera.

An image of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins is displayed at a vigil in her honour in 2021. Reuters

Baldwin's defence team argued that he had been charged retroactively with a New Mexico firearms law that was passed after the shooting took place on October 21, 2021.

The actor has said he is not responsible for Hutchins' death, arguing that Gutierrez-Reed failed to check rounds she loaded into his revolver and assistant director Dave Halls falsely told him it was a "cold gun" — an industry term meaning it was unloaded or contained only dummy rounds.

Gutierrez-Reed will make a first court appearance on Friday via video link, her lawyer Jason Bowles said.

She has blamed the shooting on potential sabotage, Baldwin's lack of firearms training and a failure by Halls and Baldwin to call her on to the set for extra firearm checks.

An aerial shot of the set of Rust in Santa Fe, New Mexico. AP

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, the lead investigator on the case, and prosecutors have yet to present evidence on the source of six live long Colt .45-caliber rounds found on the set, including the bullet that killed Hutchins.

Halls pleaded not guilty in a Thursday court filing in which he also waived his first court appearance on Friday. He has entered a plea deal for misdemeanor charges and has been called as a witness by prosecutors should the case reach trial.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed now face a maximum of 18 months in prison if convicted. Before the prosecutor dropped the alternative charge they risked a minimum of five years in jail.

Documents filed on Thursday show Baldwin is out on bail ahead of any future trial, with several conditions.

These include that he will not drink alcohol, and that he will not possess firearms or dangerous weapons.

He is also barred from having any contact with witnesses in the case, save from "in connection with completing the Rust movie."

Producers announced last year that the project would be restarted, with all principal players resuming their roles.

Work on Rust was halted with Hutchins' death. The movie's production company said filming is expected to resume this spring, without the use of real weapons or ammunition.

Hutchins’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, will be the film’s new executive producer, fulfilling the terms of a legal settlement to a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin and other Rust producers.

A related documentary is planned that will detail the completion of the film and the life of Hutchins.

— Additional reporting by Reuters, AP and AFP

Updated: February 24, 2023, 9:49 AM