A Key Charge Against Alec Baldwin In The Rust Shooting Case Has Been Dropped

Alec Baldwin will no longer be facing the possibility of five years in prison for his role in the accidental death of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Per ABC, the Santa Fe District Attorney's Office announced on Monday that the firearm enhancement charge previously placed on Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has been dropped, although their initial charges of involuntary manslaughter are still in effect. This means that the two defendants, who were working on the set of "Rust" during the incident (Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for the prop firearms, and Baldwin was holding the gun that killed Hutchins), are not facing the potential minimum sentence of five years. However, if convicted of their counts of involuntary manslaughter, they could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine each.

The Santa Fe District Attorney's Office did not hold back on what caused this significant charge to be dropped. According to spokeswoman Heather Brewer in the statement, the decision was made to avoid "further litigious distractions" from Baldwin's legal team.

"The prosecution's priority is securing justice," she wrote. "Not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys."

What comes next?

This charge dropping is the latest development in the long and tragic case of Hutchins' death. As previously reported, the October 2021 incident happened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the set of the western "Rust." Baldwin was operating a real Colt .45 pistol seemingly emptied of its rounds, but one live round seemingly discharged upon firing, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed have provided conflicting reports on who they considered more responsible for the mismanagement.

Regardless, the decision to drop the enhancement charge not only helps Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed from seeing a lengthy sentence, but it also could help "Rust" actually get back on track with filming. Producers on the film recently announced that they intend to resume filming in the spring of 2023, with a documentary on Hutchins' life and career coinciding with it. If things go to plan, Baldwin is expected to return, while Bianca Cline will take over cinematography duties. It is unknown whether Gutierrez-Reed is expected to return as the film's armorer, although Tenet Production Safety was hired to provide safety officers.

"Though bittersweet, I am grateful that a brilliant and dedicated new production team joining former cast and crew are committed to completing what Halyna and I started," wrote Souza in a statement. "My every effort on this film will be devoted to honoring Halyna's legacy and making her proud. It is a privilege to see this through on her behalf."