Prosecutors downgrade charge against Alec Baldwin in Rust shooting case
U.S. prosecutors have downgraded an involuntary manslaughter charge against Alec Baldwin.
Last month, officials at the Santa Fe Sheriff's Office formally charged the Hollywood actor and armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in relation to a fatal shooting on the set of Rust.
In October 2021, production on the western was suspended after the Hollywood actor's prop firearm discharged during a rehearsal, injuring director Joel Souza and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Yet, late last week, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies filed altered charges, with firearm enhancement dropped from the second charge for both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed.
The change reduces potential prison sentences from five years to a maximum of 18 months.
"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," commented New Mexico First Judicial District spokesperson Heather Brewer. "The prosecution's priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys."
Lawyers for Baldwin have not yet commented on the news.
The actor has long argued that he never pulled the trigger on the prop gun, despite an FBI forensic report finding that the weapon could not have fired on its own.
Last October, the 64-year-old and producers reached a settlement with Hutchins's family, with it agreed that the film could resume production in 2023.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are both expected to make an initial appearance in court on 24 February.