Criminal Charges Are ‘on the Table’ – Opinion

The local district attorney is making things very clear when it comes to the fatal shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin’s movie “Rust” — nothing is off the table at this point.

Santa Fe First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack Altwies told ABC, “We haven’t ruled out anything. Everything at this point, including criminal charges, is on the table.”

We reported that Hannah Gutierrez Reed the armorer put the gun, which was being used in the COVID protocol, on a cart along with two others. This scene was taking place inside a building. The assistant director, Dave Halls, then picked up the gun and declared it a “cold gun” to let people know it was safe and, at some point, handed it to Baldwin. But the director, Joel Souza, said they then went on a lunch break after it was declared a “cold gun” and the director said that he didn’t know if it was checked when they came back. Baldwin opened fire on the gun with a projectile that struck Halyna Utchins’ cinematographer and hit Joel Souza who stood behind.

Hutchins and Souza both died. Souza, however, was injured and released from the hospital. Souza is now providing more information about what took place. Both Halls and Baldwin said they didn’t know the gun was loaded.

There have been troubling reports about gun issues on the set including that Baldwin was practicing a cross draw that required him to aim at the camera (and thus toward the cinematographer and the director behind her), that the same gun was used for target practice earlier that day by crew to go shooting at beer cans, that live ammunition was stored near blanks, that both the armorer and the assistant director had prior incidents with concerns about safety, and that there were three accidental discharges of guns including two from Alec Baldwin’s stunt double.

When they are looking at civil and criminal liability, they’re going to be looking at things like who was involved in the chain of custody of the gun, who had responsibility, and who knew what about the alleged gun safety issues on the set.

Baldwin could have been one of the producers if there were safety concerns that they should have known about.

In discussing the case, George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out New Mexico’s involuntary manslaughter statute.

New Mexico has a provision that allows “involuntary manslaughter” charges for “the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.” If there was a pattern of neglect, including prior discharges from these prop weapons, the producers could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. This is a fourth degree felony in New Mexico. It carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.

So, if the DA speaks of possible criminal charges it could just be one possibility, depending on the results of the investigation.

You have to believe that civil suits will also be filed. Turley points out that there would be questions regarding negligence because there was some type of round in the gun. There are also safety concerns reported.

Production company denies any safety concerns.

Rust Movie Productions LLC stated last week that it wasn’t aware of any prop safety concerns. The producers told the crew they are “conducting an internal review of safety protocols,” but declined to comment on any reports about the set that have appeared in the media since the shooting.

“As with any ongoing investigation, we are limited in our ability to say anything further publicly or privately, and ask for your patience in that regards,” they wrote.

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