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Alec Baldwin pleads not guilty to 'Rust' killing

By AFP

February 1, 2024 10:35 AM


Alec Baldwin

 

Alec Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges over the death of a young woman who was fatally shot on the set of a budget Western, US court documents showed Wednesday.

Baldwin, a producer and star of the film, was charged last month for his role in the 2021 death of Halyna Hutchins during the filming of period piece "Rust" in New Mexico.

He was holding a Colt .45 when it discharged, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has repeatedly denied responsibility, insisting he did not pull the trigger on the gun, which should not have been loaded with a live round.

The incident sent shockwaves through Hollywood, and led to calls for a tightening of the rules around the use of firearms on movie sets.

But it also led to accusations of sloppy management, with some in the industry saying regulations were already tight, and that they had simply not been properly followed during the making of "Rust."

Baldwin's lawyers Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro have filed a request for a quick trial in order to "minimize public vilification and suspicion and to avoid the hazards of proving his innocence that often arise after a lengthy delay in prosecution.

Baldwin had been due to appear virtually in the New Mexico court on Thursday for an arraignment, but his lawyers submitted a waiver that also contained his plea of not guilty.

Initial manslaughter charges against 65-year-old Baldwin were dropped in April last year, due to what prosecutors called "new facts" that demanded "further investigation and forensic analysis."

That led to the empaneling of a grand jury, which ultimately handed down the indictment he is now facing -- and could see him jailed for up to 18 months, if convicted.

Baldwin faces two alternative counts of involuntary manslaughter -- one involving "negligent use of a firearm" and one of acting "without due caution or circumspection."

It will be up to the jury to decide whether to convict him on one or the other, or neither (but not both).

The charges relate to the action, not to the oversight of the movie, meaning he is being held culpable as an actor, not in his capacity as producer.

Actors' union SAG-AFTRA criticized the charges, which it said were based on "an incorrect assessment of the actual duties of an actor."

"An actor's job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert," the union said. "Firearms are provided for use on set under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm."

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film's armorer -- the person responsible for supplying and maintaining weapons -- is set to go on trial later in the month on charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence.

Dave Halls, the film's safety coordinator and assistant director who handed Baldwin the loaded gun, agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to six months' probation.

Filming of "Rust" was halted by the tragedy, but resumed last year.

The cinematographer's widower, Matthew Hutchins, who has already settled a wrongful death suit with "Rust" producers, served as an executive producer on the project.

Director Souza also returned, saying at the time that completing the movie would be "bittersweet" but that the cast and crew "are committed to completing what Halyna and I started."

Baldwin remains free on bail.


AFP


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