It has been 15 months since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot dead during rehearsals on set in New Mexico.
One of her friends, whom she worked with on the film Rust, told me he has been “praying for accountability” and the looming charges of involuntary manslaughter suggest it could finally be on the way.
There have been several civil lawsuits and counter-suits filed by Rust cast and crew, from the script assistant to the chief electrician, as the blame and counter-blame game plays out in a uniquely American way.
But these charges announced by the Santa Fe District Attorney are the first sign that a criminal reckoning could be coming for Alec Baldwin and the film’s armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for weapons on set.
Baldwin has admitted holding the gun when the bullet which killed Hutchins was discharged but has always denied pulling the trigger.
However, his account is at odds with what FBI investigators found. Police say they also spoke with other A-list actors as part of their investigation, who indicated they always check their gun for live bullets or ask someone else to do so. The implication is that Baldwin was negligent for not doing so.
“The gun was in his hand when he pulled the trigger and that was the main action that killed Halyna Hutchins,” the Santa Fe district attorney Mary Cormack-Weiss told NBC.
“This was something that was more than mere negligence, it was people acting recklessly, people not doing their jobs, people not following safety protocols, not following safety standards, violating all of the standards that we all have to follow if we have a gun in our hands.”
The film’s assistant director Dave Halls, who was in overall charge of weapons on set and allegedly handed Baldwin the gun, made a plea deal with prosecutors, admitting there was sufficient evidence to convict him of the negligent use of a deadly weapon.
The decision to laser in on him, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed suggest investigators were focussed on the chain of custody of the gun, and who handled the weapon that day.
The announcement of looming charges was welcomed by Ms Hutchins’ family but the decision to charge Baldwin has proven controversial in wider Hollywood.
“To charge Alec Baldwin as a producer is one thing, but to charge him as an actor seems to misunderstand the chain of responsibility on a movie set,” Robert King, creator of legal drama The Good Wife, tweeted. “If you’re charging the actor, you should be charging the director, all producers, prop master, many others.”
Baldwin is remaining defiant and even bullish. “We will fight this and we will win,” his lawyer said in a statement.
It chimed with his sentiments in his first TV interview after the tragedy. “Someone is guilty, but it’s not me,” he remarked on that occasion.
There is no suggestion he is on the brink of reaching a settlement with prosecutors over the shooting so there is every prospect of this reaching a jury trial where, if convicted, he could face 18 months in prison.
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