Last Updated: April 21, 2023, 04:24 AM IST
Manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin over a fatal shooting on a movie set are to be dropped, his lawyer and sources to US media said Thursday, as newly appointed special prosecutors take over the case.
Baldwin was charged in January over the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during the filming of the Western “Rust” in New Mexico in 2021, and pleaded not guilty.
He was holding a Colt .45 gun during rehearsals when it discharged, killing Hutchins, but has said he was told the gun was safe and did not pull the trigger.
“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,” said attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro.
New Mexico prosecutors did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
Hollywood entertainment media outlet Deadline said the charges were to be dropped without prejudice.
That means veteran New Mexico attorneys Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis, who were appointed as special prosecutors last month and are expected to continue investigating the incident, could file fresh charges down the line.
Director Joel Souza was wounded in the incident.
The criminal case against Baldwin has hit multiple legal potholes in the past few months.
Baldwin and the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible on set for the weapon that killed Hutchins, were each charged with two alternative counts of voluntary manslaughter.
But a so-called “firearm enhancement” was dropped soon afterwards, due to an alleged technical error by prosecutors.
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and the case’s previous special prosecutor Andrea Reeb both stepped aside from overseeing the case against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed.
In a statement Thursday, Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys said the “new special prosecutor team has taken a very diligent and thorough approach to the entire investigation.”
There was no immediate clarity on whether Gutierrez-Reed will face any charges.
– ‘Recriminations’ –
Filming of “Rust” was due to resume Thursday at a new location in the northern US state of Montana.
The deceased cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, is serving as an executive producer.
He has already settled a wrongful death suit with “Rust” producers, and has said he has “no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame,” calling his wife’s death “a terrible accident.”
Baldwin earlier agreed to terms with the New Mexico court that will allow him to complete filming of the movie, including a ban on his using guns or drinking alcohol.
Director Souza, who is also returning, said completing the movie would be “bittersweet” but that the cast and crew “are committed to completing what Halyna and I started.”
A documentary will also be made, covering Halyna Hutchins’s life and the completion of the film.
The accident sent shockwaves through Hollywood and led to calls for a total ban on real guns on set.
Industry experts have said there are already stringent safety rules in place, but that they were ignored.
Dave Halls, the film’s safety coordinator and assistant director, who handed Baldwin the loaded gun, agreed a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced last month to six months’ probation.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)