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Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ shooting trial starts today. Here’s what to know.

3 days ago 46

Nearly three years after a prop revolver discharged in Alec Baldwin’s hand on the set of “Rust,” killing the Western movie’s cinematographer and injuring its director, his trial for involuntary manslaughter is set to start with jury selection Tuesday. Scheduled to run 10 days, the long-awaited trial is a high-stakes moment for the Emmy-winning actor, who could be sent to prison if found guilty.

Here’s what you should know about the tragic incident as Baldwin’s trial begins.

What happened on the “Rust” set?

Some cast and crew of “Rust” were rehearsing at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, N.M., on Oct. 21, 2021, when a revolver being handled by Baldwin went off, releasing a live round that was not supposed to be on set.

The bullet hit cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder.

Hutchins, 42, was airlifted from the scene and pronounced dead at a hospital in Albuquerque. Souza was released from a hospital, expected to make a full recovery.

Production on the film was temporarily halted as authorities examined the firearms and projectiles on set, and Baldwin — both the star and producer of “Rust” — announced he was “fully cooperating with the police investigation”

What is Alec Baldwin being accused of? Could he face jail time?

Baldwin, who was holding the loaded gun when it went off and killed Hutchins, was this January indicted by a grand jury on involuntary manslaughter charges, for which he will stand trial this week.

The indictment, which was filed in Santa Fe, lists two counts of involuntary manslaughter: first, that Baldwin handled the prop gun negligently, and second, that he caused the tragic accident “with the total disregard or indifference for the safety of others.” Baldwin can only be convicted of one of the counts.

If convicted, Baldwin could be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison. He has denied pulling the gun’s trigger and pleaded not guilty.

Baldwin also pleaded not guilty when similar charges were filed against him in January 2023. But those charges were dropped that April when the case’s special prosecutors said they needed more time to investigate.

What did Baldwin say happened?

Baldwin denied pulling the trigger in a December 2021 interview with ABC News, before charges were brought before him. That claim was seconded at the time by the attorney for the film’s assistant director Dave Halls.

Baldwin has also said that he was told the gun contained blanks, rather than a live round.

“I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never,” he said. “… The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me until probably about 45 minutes to an hour later.”

But prosecutors announced last year that forensic testing on the gun suggested that Baldwin had to have pulled the trigger. The state also contends that Baldwin behaved irresponsibly on set, ignoring gun safety protocols.

Why did the trial take so long to start?

Baldwin was initially charged, along with the movie’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, of two counts of involuntary manslaughter in January 2023 — more than a year after the shooting.

But about three months later, the charges against the actor were dropped after “new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis,” prosecutors said at the time, noting that the charges could be refiled.

In January, a grand jury indicted Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter once again.

The case has also been affected by a high turnover of the prosecutorial team. New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies first appointed Andrea Reeb as special prosecutor. But in March 2023, Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis were appointed to replace Reeb, who resigned after Baldwin’s lawyers questioned whether she could legally be a prosecutor and serve in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Morrissey and Lewis remained a team until April, when Lewis stepped down from the case and was replaced by Erlinda Johnson.

Now that it’s finally started, the trial is expected to move quickly. It’s scheduled to run until July 19.

Have others faced criminal charges in the “Rust” shooting?

Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer tasked with handing all prop guns on set, was in March found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for failing to ensure gun safety on set and not guilty of evidence tampering. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison and is seeking a retrial. A district court judge ruled that Gutierrez-Reed won’t be forced to testify in Baldwin’s trial and won’t be granted immunity in the unlikely event that she does.

The low-budget Western film’s first assistant director and safety coordinator, Halls, who allegedly handed Baldwin the gun and told him it had no live rounds, avoided jail time with a no-contest plea. He signed a deal for a petty misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation, a $500 fine, 24 hours of community service, and a firearm safety course. As part of the terms of his plea deal, he also must testify in all hearings involved in the shooting and have no contact with co-defendants or witnesses.

What else is Baldwin contending with?

Baldwin is involved in several civil lawsuits. Less than a month after the shooting, he was sued by two crew members who accused him and other producers of assault and inflicting emotional distress. About a year later, Baldwin sued Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, prop master Sarah Zachry and ammunition supplier Seth Kenney, blaming their negligence for Hutchins’s death in an effort to “clear his name,” the lawsuit said.

Hutchins’s family has also pursued legal action against Baldwin and others working on “Rust.” In October 2022, Baldwin, along with the film’s production companies and several crew members, reached a settlement after Hutchins’s husband, Matthew, and son sued for the cinematographer’s wrongful death.

As part of the agreement, Matthew was made an executive producer of “Rust.” Hutchins’s father, mother and sister living in Ukraine have sued separately for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other charges.

The movie finished filming last year, but last week, producers were denied a film production tax incentive worth as much as $1.6 million in New Mexico, according to the Associated Press. An attorney for the film’s production company said the incentive was going to fund the settlement.

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