The top prosecutor in New Mexico dropped a five-year firearm sentencing enhancement to one of the charges against Alec Baldwin in the deadly on-set shooting that killed a cinematographer.
The office of First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmak-Altwies filed a revised manslaughter charge on Friday that dropped a firearm sentencing enhancement against the actor. Baldwin was charged on Jan. 19 with involuntary manslaughter in the October 2021 death of Halyna Hutchins, a cinematographer on the Western movie “Rust,” on which Baldwin was both producer and star.
That manslaughter charge carries a potential 18-month prison sentence.
The firearm enhancement — which was not in effect when the shooting happened — imposes a potential five-year prison sentence.
A spokesperson for Carmack-Altwies’ office confirmed to Law&Crime that the involuntary manslaughter charges remain, but the firearm enhancement from the second count has been dropped.
“In order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor have removed the firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the ‘Rust’ film set,” Heather Brewer said in an email Monday. “The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”
The first involuntary manslaughter count against Baldwin, which charges Baldwin with negligent use of a deadly weapon “committed in the commission of an unlawful act,” remains unchanged.
Prosecutors have also dropped the firearm enhancement sentencing in the case of Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the movie’s armorer who faces the same charges as Baldwin.
Attorneys for Baldwin cricized Carmack-Altwies’ office for adding the enhancement in the original charging documents.
“The prosecutors in this case have committed an unconstitutional and elementary legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a statute that did not exist on the date of the accident,” attorney Luke Nikas wrote in a motion weeks after the criminal charges against Baldwin were filed.
Lawyers for Baldwin have also tried to disqualify special prosecutor Andrea Reeb on the grounds that she is serving as a Republican state lawmaker while working with the state on Baldwin’s case. Baldwin is an outspoken Democrat and regularly targeted by the political right.
The “billable hours” dig from the DA’s office on Monday sparked the ire of civil rights watchdogs.
“The DA was just caught trying to charge Alec Baldwin with an offense that was not on the books when the incident occurred–an Ex Post Facto violation of the Constitution,” Alec Karakatsanis, founder and director of Civil Rights Corps, said on Twitter after the enhancement was dropped. “Check out their unethical statement to media. The DA should be disciplined for these public statements[.]”
Both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed have hearings scheduled for Friday. David Halls, the first assistant director for “Rust,” is set to plead guilty on March 8. He is charged with negligent use of a deadly weapon.
Baldwin is also facing a civil lawsuit by Hutchins’ family.
Nikas did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
Adam Klasfeld contributed to this story.
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