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Judge plans to dismiss indictment against Alec Baldwin in fatal cinematographer shooting

Judge plans to dismiss indictment against Alec Baldwin in fatal cinematographer shooting

 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) A New Mexico judge is considering Alec Baldwin's request to dismiss the grand jury indictment against him at a hearing scheduled for Friday.

The January indictment charged Baldwin with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Oct. 21, 2021, at a movie ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe.

Baldwin, lead actor and co-producer of Western Rust, has pleaded not guilty to the charge and his lawyers have requested that he be fired. They argued that prosecutors flouted the rules of grand jury procedures to distract from the defense's evidence and witnesses. The involuntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of one and a half years in prison.

During rehearsal, Baldwin was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and injuring Joel Souza, the director. Baldwin maintained that he removed the hammer from the gun, but not the trigger.

Baldwin's motion to dismiss the indictment also argues that the grand jury received inaccurate and one-sided testimony about the gun involved in the fatal shooting.

Special prosecutors say they followed grand jury protocols and accuse Baldwin of brazen attempts to evade guilt, pointing to contradictions in his statements to law enforcement, workplace safety regulators and in a television interview. A jury trial is scheduled for July.

Prosecutors turned their full attention to Baldwin after a judge's sentencing in April. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, Cinema Weapons Supervisor up to a maximum of 1 1/2 years in a state penitentiary for a conviction of involuntary manslaughter for Hutchins' death.

Last year, prosecutors dismissed a manslaughter charge against Baldwin after learning that the gun he was holding may have been modified before the shooting and malfunctioned. A new analysis of the weapon last year allowed prosecutors to restart the case.

The indictment against Baldwin offers two possible standards that prosecutors must pursue. One of them would be based on the negligent use of a firearm. An alternative is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Baldwin caused Hutchins' death without due care or circumspection, also defined as an act committed with callous disregard or indifference to the safety of others.

Defense attorneys also say prosecutors distanced the grand jury from the testimony of witnesses including the film's director, as well as assistant director and security coordinator Dave Halls and prop master Sarah Zachry. Last year, Halls pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm and served a six-month sentence of unsupervised probation.

Gutierrez-Reed's two-week trial gave Baldwin's lawyers and the public an unusual window into how the actor's own trial might unfold.

Baldwin figured prominently in testimony and closing arguments that underscored his authority as Rust's co-producer and lead actor. The prosecution and defense in the Gutierrez-Reeds trial dissected video footage of Baldwin before the fatal shooting for clues about flaws in gun safety.

Prosecutors said Gutierrez-Reed unwittingly brought live ammunition to the set of Rust, where it was expressly prohibited, and failed to follow basic gun safety protocols.

Gutierrez-Reed is appealing the conviction, handed down by a jury in March, to a higher court, but has not yet filed detailed arguments. During sentencing, Gutierrez-Reed told the judge she tried to do her best on set despite the lack of time, resources and staff.

After filming in New Mexico, filming on Rust resumed but in Montana, as part of a deal with Hutchins' husband, Matthew Hutchins, who made him an executive producer. A wrongful death lawsuit in civil court filed by Matthew Hutchins and the Hutchins' son has been settled under undisclosed terms.

Defense attorneys say Baldwin was offered a deal last year to plead to a minor offense before a grand jury was convened, but the offer was inexplicably retracted before the deadline to respond.

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