Alec Baldwin no longer faces the possibility of five years in prison after prosecutors dropped part of the charges being levelled at him for his part in a fatal film set shooting – but he still could be jailed for a lesser time.
Baldwin was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter over the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust in October 2021.
Baldwin, 64, is due to make his first appearance in a US court on Friday.
The first charge facing Baldwin – involuntary manslaughter – requires proof of underlying negligence.
The second charge – involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act – requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death, and includes a firearm enhancement, which makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in prison.
This second charge has now been removed, reducing the possible prison sentence Baldwin faces from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 18 months.
The actor-producer’s legal team had objected to the enhancement, saying it was unconstitutional because it only became law after the October 2021 shooting.
“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,” Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney, said in a statement.
A lawyer for Baldwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The second charge was also dropped against Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for weapons on the set. Her attorney said they “applaud” the decision.
Baldwin’s legal fight
Baldwin’s case is remarkable in that there is little or no precedent for a Hollywood actor to face criminal charges for an on-set shooting.
And it isn’t the first time Baldwin’s team has fought the charges against him, first filing to disqualify the special prosecutor on the Rust case, due to, what they call, her “unconstitutional” role as a politician.
Last year, Andrea Reeb was brought in to assist on the case, and in November she was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives.
In a motion filed last week, Baldwin‘s lawyers argue that the state’s constitution prohibits Ms Reeb from serving as both a prosecutor and as a state lawmaker.
Hutchins died after a prop gun held by Baldwin was discharged during rehearsals for the western film in October 2021.
Director Joel Souza was also wounded in the incident on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Baldwin has denied responsibility. He has said he cocked the revolver but never pulled the trigger and it was the job of Gutierrez-Reed and other weapons professionals to ensure it was unloaded.
The FBI said the revolver “functioned normally” and would not fire without the trigger being pulled.
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Family sues Baldwin for battery and negligence
A separate civil lawsuit was filed on Thursday by the family of Ms Hutchins.
The family is suing Baldwin and the Rust movie production company alleging battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium is a claim which seeks to recover compensation for damage to certain relationships that are mutually dependent.