‘Rust’ Shooting Charges Downgraded for Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed — 5-Year Sentence Now Off the Table

The remaining manslaughter charge would bring a maximum 18-month sentence

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 say they have downgraded manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin and “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez, removing the possibility of a five-year sentence for the accidental on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

The New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney said Monday that it had dropped firearm “enhancement” charges, a tier above regular manslaughter charge that carries a mandatory minimum five years. With only manslaughter charges remaining, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed could wind up doing little or no jail time, as the maximum sentence in New Mexico is 18 months.

Attorneys for Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed challenged the enhancement charge earlier this month, saying that the statute did not exist at the time of the 2021 incident, and that bringing it was unconstitutional. Judging by the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney’s statement on Monday, that legal challenge may have had legs:

“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. The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”

Legal experts who spoke with TheWrap after the firearm-enhancement charges were revealed called them “aggressive” and “a stretch” – signaling that prosecutors are intending to take the case to trial. But with no direct answer to the “ex post facto” problem of the firearm enhancement charge, it may be that prosecutors had hit a blocker.

A pretrial hearing, which could determine dates and other key developments, is set for Friday morning.