‘Rust’ Prosecutors to Drop Charges Against Alec Baldwin, New Evidence Shows Gun’s Trigger Was Modified

New Mexico prosecutors were expected to drop charges without prejudice, meaning Baldwin could be tried in the future

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.

New Mexico prosecutors in the “Rust” criminal manslaughter trial were expected to drop all charges against Alec Baldwin, apparently after learning that the gun used in the accidental shooting had a modified trigger. The investigation remains open and charges could be brought up again in the future.

“We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,” a lawyer for the film’s star and producer said.

The Los Angeles Times reported later Thursday that prosecutors recently learned that the replica Colt .45 that Baldwin used had been modified before it arrived on set. Citing anonymous sources, the Times reported that the gun had been fitted with a new trigger, increasing the possibility of a misfire. Prosecutors did not comment on the firearm, but suggested in a statement that there was, in fact, new evidence.

“Over the last few days and in preparation for the May 3, 2023, preliminary hearing, new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis in the case against [Baldwin]. Consequently, we cannot proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence
turned over by law enforcement in its existing form. We therefore will be dismissing the involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr. Baldwin to conduct further investigation. This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled. Our follow-up investigation will remain active and on-going.”

Media reports from earlier Thursday said charges against armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed would also be dropped, but the district attorney’s statement later that evening said charges against her remained unchanged.

The motion was expected to be filed by recently appointed special prosecutors Kari Morrisey and Jason Lewis and will request for the charges against Baldwin to be dropped “without prejudice,” meaning that prosecutors could pursue the charges again in the future. Baldwin had faced a prison sentence of up to 18 months if convicted.

This would allow Morrisey, Lewis, and the Santa Fe District Attorney’s office to investigate further into the death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was killed when a gun being held by Baldwin during a scene rehearsal discharged and fired a live bullet that also injured director Joel Souza.

Baldwin insisted in an interview on ABC that he did not pull the trigger when the gun discharged, though a forensics analysis on the gun conducted by the FBI determined that the gun could not have fired without a trigger pull.

The dropped charges are another twist in a criminal case that has been filled with them. The recent hiring of Morrisey and Lewis by Santa Fe DA Mary Carmack-Altwies came after a judge ruled that the DA’s office must either appoint special prosecutors or try the case themselves, but could not do both.

Morrisey and Lewis replace previous special prosecutor Andrea Reeb, who stepped down after Baldwin’s attorneys questioned whether she was eligible to serve on the trial as she was serving in the New Mexico state legislature. Reeb’s handling of the case was also criticized as she charged Baldwin with a firearm enhancement that could have raised the prison sentence to five years, though it was dropped as the enhancement was added to the state’s penal code after Hutchins was killed.

Meanwhile, shooting on “Rust” resumed for the first time in 18 months on Thursday, with the production moved from New Mexico to Montana and Souza remaining on as director.