Alec Baldwin pleaded not guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter charges lodged against him by New Mexico prosecutors, who revived the criminal case against him earlier this month over his role in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of Rust.
The actor and producer of the low-budget Western has maintained that he didn’t pull the trigger on the firearm that discharged. He was indicted for a second time after charges were initially dropped following a five-month investigation, culminating with a forensic expert issuing a report clashing with Baldwin’s account of the incident.
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Baldwin entered the not guilty plea in a court filing, waiving his virtual court appearance scheduled for Thursday morning. He was not arrested.
Under the conditions of release, the actor is barred from possessing any firearms, leaving the country or coming into contact with anyone who may testify in the case. The court, however, permitted him to have contact with witnesses connected with the Rust production provided that he does not discuss the incident or potential testimony.
“Discussion about the incident is permitted with the witnesses who are named as civil co-defendants only so long as such conversations are held exclusively in the presence of attorneys for civil litigation purposes,” the order stated. “The defendant will not directly or indirectly solicit witnesses or members of the case and crew to participate in the documentary with Moxie films or to obtain statements regarding safety on the ‘Rust‘ set outside of standards investigative procedures.”
Baldwin faces a sentence of 18 months in prison if convicted.
The refiling of charges by New Mexico prosecutors served as another twist in the case that has seen a series of missteps by the prosecution. They include the downgrading of charges against Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed after prosecutors cited a firearm law that was not in effect at the time of the shooting and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb — who was part of the team that initially charged Baldwin — being forced to step down due to a conflict of interest with her elected position in the New Mexico House of Representatives, with leaked emails indicating that she sought to leverage the case for political gain. Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who appointed Reeb, subsequently excused herself from all matters related to the prosecution.
SAG-AFTRA has come to the actor’s defense. In a statement after the criminal case was revived, the union stressed that he did not have the responsibility to inspect the firearm that discharged.
“Performers train to perform, and they are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use,” the statement said. “The industry assigns that responsibility to qualified professionals who oversee their use and handling in every aspect.”
Prosecutors have also charged Gutierrez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter, as well as evidence tampering. Her trial is set to start next month.
The shooting occurred Oct. 21, 2021, when an old-fashioned revolver being handled by Baldwin went off while he was practicing drawing the prop firearm. Prior to that, assistant director David Halls handed Baldwin the weapon and said that it did not contain live ammunition, but it discharged in the direction of Halyna Hutchins, who was killed, and director Joel Souza, who was injured. Five live rounds mixed in with dummy rounds were found on set following the shooting. It remains unknown how the live rounds ended up on the set.
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