Less than a week after being hit with involuntary manslaughter charges for the second time over the fatal Rust on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in late 2021, Alec Baldwin’s first New Mexico court date has been set for next month.
Looking at 18 months to possibly three years behind bars based on state law, Baldwin has been “ordered to appear before Judge T. Glenn Ellington, on February 1, 2024, at 11 a.m.” local time (read the court summons to Alec Baldwin here).
“Mr. Baldwin asserts his right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Article 2, Section 14 of the New Mexico Constitution,” said Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro from the NYC office of Quinn Emanuel and Albuquerque lawyer Heather LeBlanc.
“Mr. Baldwin is entitled to a fair and speedy disposition of the charges to minimize public vilification and suspicion and to avoid the hazards of proving his innocence that often arise after lengthy delays in prosecution,“.
“Mr. Baldwin reserves the right to call any and all witnesses disclosed by the prosecution on a witness list for trial or hearing in this matter,” the attorneys concluded, putting down a marker for special prosecutors Kerri Morrisey and Jason Lewis.
Baldwin isn’t required to be in the New Mexico courtroom in person on February 1. As when the Rust star-producer was charged before, the actor can appear via phone or “video conference.”
But he does have to show up in one form or another. Otherwise, “if you fail to appear at the time and place specified, a warrant will be issued for your arrest,” the court proclaimed on January 22.
From the hours right after the October 21, 2021 death of Hutchins — caused by the firing of an 1880s prop gun Baldwin was pointing at the cinematographer during a rehearsal on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set just outside Santa Fe — to now, the actor has declared on TV, in court filings, and everywhere else that he did not pull the trigger.
In a case that was a mess from the get-go, Baldwin saw initial criminal charges against him dropped in April 2022. However, newly named special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis never ruled out refiling manslaughter or other claims against him if more evidence came in.
Within six months, that evidence looks to have come in.
“After extensive investigation over the past several months, additional facts have come to light that we believe show Mr. Baldwin has criminal culpability in the death of Halyna Hutchins and the shooting of Joel Souza,” Morrissey and Lewis said in late October before heading to a grand jury.
That grand jury eventually delivered last week’s charges a year to the day Baldwin and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were originally charged.
After a botched investigation by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department, the FBI became further involved in early 2022 to determine that the weapon could have only gone off if Baldwin had pulled the trigger. That assessment was reiterated by independent weapons examiners brought aboard by the special prosecutors.
“Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings, and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” declared the special prosecutors’ report from Lucien Haag and Michael Haag that was commissioned August 2.
After that, it became a matter of time and timing until Baldwin was likely to be charged again.
Rust director Joel Souza was wounded in the shooting but recovered. Both producers on Rust, Souza, and Baldwin, with a new cinematographer and Hutchins’ husband as a producer, restarted and finished Rust early last year in Montana. The film has gone out to possible buyers.
Similar to Baldwin, Reed is facing a maximum of 18 months behind bars and around $5,000 in fines if a jury finds her guilty of involuntary manslaughter among her current charges.
Leaned on by prosecutors to provide information on how live rounds got on the set of Rust, the armorer saw evidence-tampering charges added late last year.
Reed has pleaded not guilty, with her case scheduled to go to trial in February. With Baldwin charged again, that timetable may change. A pretrial motions hearing in Reed’s case set for Thursday may offer details of where things are going next.