The prosecution in the case of a fatal New Mexico film-set shooting made a stark turnaround Monday, dropping the possibility of a mandatory five-year sentence against Alec Baldwin, new court filings show.
The actor-producer's attorneys had earlier objected to the enhancement, saying it was unconstitutional because it was added after the October 2021 shooting. Legal experts had said Baldwin had a strong chance of seeing it tossed out.
“The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a version of the firearm-enhancement statue that did not exist on the date of the accident,” Baldwin's attorneys said in an earlier court filing.
Baldwin's attorney declined to comment Monday after the reversal by prosecutors, who earlier criticized his efforts to have the sentencing requirement dropped. The related standard for the possibility of a mandatory five years would be reckless disregard of safety “without due caution and circumspection” and carried a higher threshold of wrongdoing.
The remaining alternative standard and set of penalties in the case now requires proof of negligence, which is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine under New Mexico law.
Heather Brewer, spokesperson for the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said in an email earlier this month that the prosecution's focus "will remain on ensuring that justice is served and that everyone — even celebrities with fancy attorneys — is held accountable under the law.”
Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the weapons supervisor on the set of the film "Rust," were charged last month with felony involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died shortly after being wounded during rehearsals at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe.
Authorities said Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.
Hutchins’ parents and sister have filed a lawsuit over the shooting after a similar suit filed by her husband and son was settled.
Production that was halted by the shooting is expected to resume this spring. Rust Movie Productions said Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins, will be the film’s new executive producer with Blanca Cline as the new cinematographer.
Rust Movie Productions said last week a related documentary will detail the completion of the film and the life of Halyna Hutchins.
Souza will return as director when production resumes, although it’s unclear in what state the filming will take place.
Rust Movie Productions officials said the use of “working weapons” and “any form of ammunition” will be prohibited on the movie set.
Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed reporting from Los Angeles.