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Charges against Alec Baldwin in the 'Rust' movie set shooting dropped for now

This aerial photo shows the movie set of <em>Rust</em> in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 23, 2021. Prosecutors in New Mexico plan to drop an involuntary manslaughter charge against Alec Baldwin in the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western film.
Jae C. Hong
This aerial photo shows the movie set of Rust in Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 23, 2021. Prosecutors in New Mexico plan to drop an involuntary manslaughter charge against Alec Baldwin in the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western film.

Updated April 20, 2023 at 11:32 PM ET

New Mexico special prosecutors announced they are dropping involuntary manslaughter charges against actor Alec Baldwin for the death of the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western film Rust.

In 2021, at a ranch outside Albuquerque, N.M., Baldwin was rehearsing a scene when the gun he was aiming toward the camera went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. The 65-year-old Baldwin, who is also one of the film's producers, has maintained that he shouldn't be criminally responsible for what turned out to be a loaded weapon.

Prosecutors Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis wrote in a statement that they had been preparing for a preliminary hearing when law enforcement turned over new evidence. "New facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis," they wrote, adding they were therefore dismissing involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin in order to investigate further. "This decision does not absolve Mr. Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled."

Baldwin's attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, said they were pleased with the decision to dismiss charges. "We encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident," they wrote in a statement.

The special prosecutors announced that the same involuntary manslaughter charges against Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film's armorer, remain unchanged. Her attorneys told the A.P. they "fully expect at the end of this process that Hannah will also be exonerated." The New Mexico judge has rescheduled her preliminary hearing for August 9th.

Last month, Rust's safety coordinator and assistant director David Halls pleaded no contest to his conviction for unsafe handling of a firearm and a suspended sentence of six months of probation.

News of Baldwin's dismissal broke on the same day production of Rust resumed, 18 months after the shooting, at a new location, Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana.

Baldwin still stars in it, Souza is still the director and Hutchins' widower Matthew is now the executive producer, a title he got in a settlement after dropping his wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin and the other producers of Rust.

Meanwhile, Halyna Hutchin's parents, Olga Solovey and Anatolii Androsovych, and her sister, Svetlana Zemki, are proceeding with their civil lawuit against Baldwin. Their attorney Gloria Allred says they are seeking punitive damages and remain hopeful, despite the dismissal of criminal charges against the movie star.

"Mr. Baldwin should know that we remain committed to fighting and winning for our clients and holding him accountable for pointing a loaded gun at Halyna Hutchins, pulling the trigger, and killing her," she wrote in a statement Friday. "Mr. Baldwin may pretend that he is not responsible for pulling the trigger and ejecting a live bullet which ended Halyna's life. He can run to Montana and pretend that he is just an actor in a wild west movie but, in real life, he cannot escape from the fact that he had a major role in a tragedy which had real life consequences for Halyna, her mother, father, sister, and co-worker."

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As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.