A former federal prosecutor says he expects to see manslaughter charges filed in a criminal case against both “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and possibly assistant director Dave Halls in the wake of the death of Halyna Hutchins.
The Santa Fe Sheriff’s department investigation is ongoing and no criminal charges have been filed yet by the New Mexico district attorney. But Naema Rahmani, president of personal injury firm West Coast Trial Lawyers and a former federal prosecutor, says that he believes the “Rust” case meets the standards necessary to prove gross negligence in order to secure manslaughter charges.
“Criminal negligence, if I give you a firearm, I tell you it’s a cold gun, it’s not loaded, I haven’t even checked it? That’s grossly negligent,” Rahmani said on “TheWrap-Up Podcast.” “I think the armorer for sure, and also if it was me, if it was my case, I would also charge manslaughter for Dave Halls.”
Rahmani differentiated between civil negligence, in which someone should have known of the dangers and could be liable in a civil lawsuit, versus gross or criminal negligence for someone who failed to follow appropriate safety protocols. He also addressed the unsubstantiated claims from Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers that “sabotage” may have been the reason why she was unaware that live rounds were on the set and explained that even if that defense held up, it may still not fully absolve her, at least of civil charges.
“She is responsible for handling the firearms, loading them, importantly checking them, she’s the one who told law enforcement that she checked them,” Rahmani said. “Even if you take that as face value which is a dubious proposition, she is responsible. Blanks look different from live rounds, she is the one who supposedly has expertise in live rounds…She is responsible. I think manslaughter charges are appropriate for her. It’s grossly negligent to handle a firearm in such a way.”
Rahmani also argued that because Halls told Alec Baldwin that the weapon was a “cold gun,” he too could face manslaughter charges if he didn’t properly check the gun.
In her most recent statement, Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers said that, “Hannah was incredibly safety conscious and took her job very seriously from the moment she started on October 4th,” adding that she “kept guns locked up, including throughout lunch on the day in question, and she instructed her department to watch the cart containing the guns when she was pulled away for her other duties or on a lunch break. Hannah did everything in her power to ensure a safe set. She inspected the rounds that she loaded into the firearms that day.”
“She always inspected the rounds. She did again right before handing the firearm to Mr. Halls, by spinning the cylinder and showing him all of the rounds and then handing him the firearm. No one could have anticipated or thought that someone would introduce live rounds into this set,” the statement concluded.
As for Halls, in his first statement since the death of Hutchins, he said he was “shocked and saddened” by her death and called for “the industry to reevaluate its values and practices to ensure no one is harmed through the creative process again.” But in a search warrant, he had previously told police that he did not thoroughly check the guns as he should have, a detail Rahmani said is also admissible as evidence.
“He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she spun the drum,” according to the affidavit. He stressed to police that this was not a deliberate act.
Rahmani said that while most are interested in the criminal case, he expects there to be a workers compensation claim and a wrongful death suit, and he further said that Baldwin may have displayed some of his own negligence that could lead to a civil lawsuit, whether as an actor or as a producer on the film responsible for the negligence of his employees.
Hear more from Naema Rahmani on the complete “Wrap-Up Podcast” above.