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Alec Baldwin Gets The Best Justice Money Can Buy

Prosecutors dropped criminal charges against Baldwin, while his working-class employees take the fall, proving we have two systems of justice.


When Alec Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly shooting and killing his cinematographer, the Santa Fe district attorney declared: “No one is above the law and justice will be served.” As it turned out, the rich movie star, who knowingly broke every gun safety rule, is above the law. Prosecutors have dropped the criminal charges against Baldwin. His working-class employees are taking the fall for him, proving there are two systems of justice.

New Mexico prosecutors filed to dismiss the charges against Baldwin in late April and said “new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis” before the planned May 3 preliminary hearing. They left open the possibility of refiling charges against Baldwin for the death of Halyna Hutchins, but it is unlikely.

Baldwin, 65, is now back reshooting “Rust” on a new Montana set. Baldwin is both the star and a producer of the movie. The Western stopped filming on Oct. 21, 2021, after Hutchins, 42, was shot in the chest. The bullet went through her and lodged in director Joel Souza’s shoulder.

Rules for Thee

Two of Baldwin’s crew members, who are not on the new movie set, didn’t get off scot-free.

The movie’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, remains charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Gutierrez-Reed, 25, admitted to accidentally loading real ammunition in the Colt .45 revolver. The investigators do not know how the live rounds got to the set. She gave the gun to Assistant Director Dave Halls and left the small church set. Halls gave the gun to Baldwin.

“It’s difficult to reconcile how Baldwin’s charges would be dismissed and the charges remain against Hannah,” Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney, Jason Bowles of New Mexico, told me. “Hannah wasn’t in the church when the gun was fired. She wasn’t called back in to complete another safety check with Baldwin. That’s the fault of production, not Hannah.”

Halls made a plea agreement with prosecutors in January. The 63-year-old pled no contest to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon in March and got six months’ probation. Halls’ deal required him to testify for the prosecution in the trials of Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed.

Halls’ attorney Lisa Torraco said her client does not think this turn of events is unfair. “Mr. Halls is happy for Mr. Baldwin and never thought that [Baldwin] should have been charged,” Torraco told me.

As for his own case, Torraco said Halls is “happy” it’s over.

“He knows he may have been able to beat the charges, but he did not want to fight for that. He wanted to give closure to the Hutchins family,” Torraco told me. “He agreed that the misdemeanor plea was best for everyone. His plea was no more than a traffic ticket and it gave early closure to the case and hopefully some peace to all involved.”

Smoking Trigger

When the charges were dropped, Baldwin’s lawyers said in a statement that they were “pleased with the decision” and “encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident.”

Baldwin’s lawyers’ reference to a “proper investigation” is about discovering that the gun’s trigger was allegedly changed before the movie, according to unnamed sources in several media outlets. The sources (who seem to be the actor’s legal or public relations team) told The Los Angeles Times that the revolver “had been modified, increasing the odds that the gun might have misfired, as Baldwin has said.” (The L.A. Times wrongly used the term “misfire,” which means the gun does not fire when the trigger is pulled.)

“As Baldwin has said” is a reference to the actor telling sheriff deputies and the media that he did not pull the trigger and the gun “went off” after he pulled back the hammer. However, the FBI forensics report on the “Rust” shooting said the revolver “could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger.” Also, a video taken at a rehearsal of the same scene earlier in the day of the shooting shows Baldwin with his finger inside the trigger guard.

“The trigger thing is just a smokescreen,” Attorney Andrew F. Branca of the Law of Self Defense told me. “The trigger is irrelevant to Baldwin’s reckless conduct — that conduct is reckless by simply pointing the loaded weapon at Hutchins without having insured it was unloaded, as that alone creates a foreseeable and unjustified risk of death.”

Big-City Attorneys

Baldwin is represented by Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro of the powerful New York law firm Quinn Emanuel. Spiro is a celebrity lawyer who also represents Elon Musk, Jay-Z, Mick Jagger, Robert Kraft, and Charles Oakley, according to Vanity Fair.    

The Baldwin legal team won multiple rounds against the New Mexico government before getting all the charges dropped. They got the firearms enhancement removed so that Baldwin went from facing a five-year mandatory prison sentence to a maximum penalty of 18 months. District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies’ spokeswoman explained that she backed down because “the prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”

Prosecution Outgunned

Baldwin’s big-city attorneys then went after the prosecutors. They filed a claim that the special prosecutor, Republican state Rep. Andrea Reeb, was violating the state constitution’s provision of separation of powers between branches of government. (She was elected to the state House after being appointed as special prosecutor by Carmack-Altwies.) Reeb was forced to resign from the case.    

Then the judge told the D.A. that she can’t co-counsel with private lawyers appointed by her again. Carmack-Altwies removed herself from the case and named New Mexico lawyers Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis as the new special prosecutors. I asked a spokesman for the attorneys how they could let Baldwin off and adhere to the D.A.’s promise that no one is above the law, but didn’t get a response. Baldwin’s attorney Nikas did not respond to a request for comment.

The Scapegoat

After the charges were dropped against Baldwin, the preliminary hearing for Gutierrez-Reed was postponed until August. The charging documents say she should have pushed back harder when Baldwin refused training and did not have her stay with the firearm on set.

“Hannah followed safety rules on set. No one has identified any rule that she allegedly broke,” said her lawyer Bowles. “She did her job to the best of her ability, and requested more training days and specific cross-draw training for Baldwin, which was either denied or ignored.”

Branca has said since the 2021 shooting that Baldwin’s reckless conduct was a clear case of involuntary manslaughter under New Mexico law. “I can only presume that the decision to drop the charge was a political rather than legal decision,” he said.

In the end, a rich, A-list actor got off all charges and is back to being a movie star. Baldwin scapegoated a young woman without money or power for his arrogant refusal to follow gun safety rules. The movie star got Hollywood justice and left his crew behind to absorb the recoil.

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