Alec Baldwin has vowed to fight two charges of involuntary manslaughter over a fatal shooting on set, with his lawyer calling the case a “terrible miscarriage of justice”.
The Hutchins’ family have welcomed the charges, saying Baldwin showed “conscious disregard for human life”.
The film’s armourer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for weapons on set, has also been charged with two charges of involuntary manslaughter.
Assistant director David Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
Director Joel Souza was also wounded in the incident on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s lawyer, said the charges “distort Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice”.
“Mr Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set,” Mr Nikas said.
“He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.”
He added: “We will fight these charges, and we will win.”
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A lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed said that she “is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident. But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter.
“These charges are the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts.
“We intend to bring the full truth to light and believe Hannah will be exonerated of wrongdoing by a jury.”
Hutchins’ family said they hoped the justice system works to “hold accountable those who break the law”.
In the statement issued on their behalf, lawyer Brian J Panish said: “We want to thank the Santa Fe sheriff and the district attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life.
“Our independent investigation also supports charges are warranted. It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law.
“We support the charges, will fully cooperate with this prosecution, and fervently hope the justice system works to protect the public and hold accountable those who break the law.”
‘A pattern of criminal disregard for safety’
Prosecutors had been given extra funding of $317,750 (about £282,900) to investigate the high-profile case.
The decision on charges comes about three months after prosecutors received the final report on the shooting from the Santa Fe sheriff’s office, following a lengthy investigation also involving the FBI.
Special prosecutor Andrea Reeb said: “If any one of these three people – Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls – had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple.”
“The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the Rust film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously,” Ms Reeb said.
Santa Fe’s district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, making the announcement of the charges, said: “No one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”
The first sign of criminal reckoning
It has taken more than a year since Halyna Hutchins’ death for these charges to be announced, but for her family and friends it represents a step towards accountability.
I have spoken to several people who worked on the film set, who made complaints at the time about what one individual described as a “total disregard” for the welfare and safety of cast and crew.
There have been a number of civil lawsuits and counter-suits filed as the blame and counter-blame game has played out. But this is the first sign of any criminal reckoning.
Baldwin and the Rust production company reached a civil settlement for an undisclosed amount with Hutchins’ family in October after a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her husband Matthew, and announced that production of the film would resume this year.
A number of other lawsuits have also been filed in relation to the shooting.
What happens now?
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with two counts of manslaughter, meaning a jury would decide not just whether they are guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they are guilty or not guilty.
The first charge can be referred to simply as involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors said, and for this to be proved there must be underlying negligence.
Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine (about £4,040). This charge also includes the misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a firearm.
The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved.
This is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
Prosecutors said the charge includes an added penalty – because a firearm was involved – which makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.
Ms Carmack-Altwies and Ms Reeb will formally file charges before the end of January.
Prosecutors said no charges will be filed in relation to Souza’s injuries.
Confirming details of Halls’ plea agreement, they said the terms include a suspended sentence and six months of probation.