Alec Baldwin Scores Another Win In ‘Rust’ Criminal Case As Besieged Special Prosecutor Steps Down
Alec Baldwin has just won another scuffle with the Santa Fe District Attorney in the criminal case over the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021.
Less than two weeks before a New Mexico court hearing on a motion by the actor’s legal team to disqualify the special prosecutor, the special prosecutor herself suddenly has quit the high-profile case.
In what can only be seen as a blow to New Mexico First Judicial D.A. Mary Carmack-Altwies, her office just released a statement on behalf of Andrea Reed, announcing that the special prosecutor will be stepping aside:
After much reflection, I have made the difficult decision to step down as special prosecutor in the Rust case. My priority in this case — and in every case I’ve prosecuted in my 25-year career — has been justice for the victim. However, it has become clear that the best way I can ensure justice is served in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on the evidence and the facts, which clearly show a complete disregard for basic safety protocols led to the death of Halyna Hutchins. I will not allow questions about my serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand.
Documents were filed Tuesday in New Mexico state court on Reed’s resignation. There is no word yet if a new special prosecutor will be appointed by Carmack-Altwies or when that might happen.
Either way, losing another battle with the defense in an already-tricky case, time certainly is not on the D.A.’s side now.
With their not guilty-pleading client facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter, famed Democrat Baldwin’s attorneys as NYC-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan declared in early February that it was unconstitutional for Reed to serve as special prosecutor because of her dual role as an elected GOP New Mexico legislator.
Reed was the district attorney for New Mexico’s Ninth Judicial District for several years but left that post in March last year to successfully run for office. Elected in November, around the time she was appointed Rust special prosecutor, Reed took office as the representative for the state’s 64th District on January 1. Trying to straddle the optics of her dual offices, Reed recused herself last month on a vote in the House of Representatives on a state budget that included $360,000 for the Rust prosecution. That sum would have paid part of her salary as special prosecutor.
Dismissing Baldwin’s team’s claims of the unconstitutionality of Reed holding the two posts simultaneously as “imaginative but unsupported theories” in a March 6 response to their disqualification motion, Carmack-Altwies postulated that her appointment of Reed was fine because prosecutors hold a “quasi-judicial office” outside both the executive and judicial branches of New Mexico’s government.
In that context, a now-redundant hearing on the motion to disqualify Reed was set for March 27 in front on Judge Mary Marlow Sommer.
After an extensive and FBI-assisted investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office was released in November 2022, Baldwin and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were formally charged by the Santa Fe D.A. with two counts of involuntary manslaughter on January 31 over the horrific October 21, 2021, death of Hutchins at Bonanza Creek Ranch. Rust director Joel Souza was wounded in that shooting.
Under the laws of the Land of Enchantment, the first charge is a fourth-degree felony, with sentencing of up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The second charge, involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, also was a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. However, the second charge also carried a firearm enhancement, which transforms the offense to a mandatory five years in state prison if found guilty. As allowed under New Mexico law, the D.A. intended to let jurors decided which charge they wished to pursue in deliberations.
Quickly following the filing of the long-awaited formal charges, attorneys for both Baldwin and Guiterrez-Reed decried the second charge as “unconstitutional,” because it was actually introduced as a state statute months after Hutchins’ death. After initially pushing back against “celebrities with fancy attorneys,” the somewhat sheepish D.A. dropped the charge on February 20 .
As a resurrected Rust intends to go into production in Montana in the next few months, Baldwin and his team clearly have the D.A. on the back foot heading into a preliminary hearing, or mini-trial. Set to start on May 3 and last two weeks, the preliminary hearing will see the D.A. and a potential new special prosecutor present their evidence in open court. If Judge Sommer determines there is enough in their case, the matter will move to a formal trial later this year.
From a primetime interview on ABC with with George Stephanopoulos just weeks after Hutchins was killed, Baldwin long has insisted that he did not pull the trigger on the 1880s prop gun that ended DoP Hutchins’ life and injured Souza. While FBI disagreed with Baldwin in their analysis of what occurred on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set, as of yet no one has been able to identify how live ammo got on the set of the $7 million budgeted Rust.
In another virtual hearing last week that saw D.A. Carmack-Altwies bedeviled by technical glitches, Baldwin defense lawyer Alex Spiro exclaimed that the gun in question had been “destroyed by the state.” Not long afterward, D.A. spokesperson Heather Brewer put out a statement saying, “The gun Alec Baldwin used in the shooting that killed Halyna Hutchins has not been destroyed by the state.” She went on to say, “The gun is in evidence and is available for the defense to review.”
“The defense’s unexpected statement in the status hearing today that the gun had been destroyed by the state may be a reference to a statement in the FBI’s July 2022 firearms testing report that said damage was done to internal components of the gun during the FBI’s functionality testing,” Brewer added. “However, the gun still exists and can be used as evidence.”
If you have any doubt of how bitter and bare knuckles this case is going to get, that dispute over the condition of the gun itself and today’s exit by the special prosecutor should make it crystal clear — and there’s more to come for sure.