Alec Baldwin Challenges Firearm ‘Enhancement’ Charge That Would Add 5 Years — Because It Didn’t Exist at Time of ‘Rust’ Shooting

New Mexico prosecutors say they’re reviewing the situation, but didn’t directly address the legal challenge

Alec Baldwin's role in an on-set death on "Rust" highlighted the issue of crew safety.
Alec Baldwin's role in an on-set death on "Rust" highlighted the issue of crew safety.

Alec Baldwin’s attorneys asked a New Mexico court on Friday to throw out a firearms “enhancement” that would add a mandatory five-year sentence to involuntary manslaughter charges filed against the “Rust” actor and producer, arguing that the statute didn’t go into effect until after the October 2021 incident.

Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed were both charged Jan. 31 with involuntary manslaughter charges, including a separate charge for “brandishing” a firearm that brings a mandatory five-year minimum sentence. Minus the charging enhancement, each would face a maximum sentence of 18 months if convicted.

“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,” according to a Friday motion obtained by TheWrap. “At the time of the accident, October 21, 2021, the firearm-enhancement statute applied only when ‘a firearm was brandished in the commission of a noncapital felony,’ and it defined ‘brandished’ to mean ‘displaying or making a firearm known to another person … with intent to intimidate or injure a person.’”

Baldwin’s lawyers say that adding the charge violates the U.S. Constitution’s ex post facto or “after the fact” clause, which prohibits criminal prosecution of laws enacted after commission of the crime. The new version of the law came into effect in May 2022, seven months after the incident.

“We believe that the State has violated well established ex post facto law by seeking to apply an enhancement passed after the alleged conduct,” Gutierrez Reed’s lawyer told TheWrap. “It’s erroneous and we expect it will be thrown out.”

Legal experts have told TheWrap that the charges were “aggressive,” with one even calling the firearms enhancement a “stretch” – and that was before the ex post facto issue was raised.

A spokeswoman for the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney acknowledged receipt of the motion on Friday, but did not directly address the fact that the enhancement charge is based on a law enacted after the accident:

“Another day, another motion from Alec Baldwin and his attorneys in an attempt to distract from the gross negligence and complete disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set that led to Halyna Hutchins’ death. In accordance with good legal practice, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor will review all motions – even those given to the media before being served to the DA. However, the DA’s and the special prosecutor’s focus will always remain on ensuring that justice is served and that everyone – even celebrities with fancy attorneys – is held accountable under the law.”

Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed are set for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 24.