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Alec Baldwin will be Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter. Here’s What That Means

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 21: Alec Baldwin poses at the opening night of the new play "Hangmen" on Broadway at The Golden Theatre on April 21, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/WireImage)

On Thursday, the Santa Fe district attorney announced that Alec Baldwin will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Hutchins was killed in 2021, when Baldwin fired a prop gun that contained live ammunition.

The accident happened on the set of the movie Rust, when Baldwin was rehearsing a scene that involved a close-up shot of his character firing the gun. Baldwin has stated that he pointed the gun at Hutchins to test a camera angle, and when he pulled back the hammer, the gun accidentally fired. However, after examining the gun, the FBI reported that it was functioning normally.

Hanna Gutierrez Reed, the armorer who loaded the weapon, will also be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. The gun was supposed to contain dummy rounds, but reportedly contained one live bullet. First assistant director David Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin, has pled guilty to one count of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

In addition to fatally wounding Hutchins, the bullet also struck director Joel Souza, wounding him.

In a statement, special prosecutor Andrea Reeb said that “If any one of these three people—Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez Reed or David Halls—had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple. The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the Rust film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”

After Hutchins’s death, an investigation found that Rust Movie Productions had violated many health and safety regulations. Investigators found live rounds of ammunition on set, and reported that there had been two accidental misfires of blank rounds before Hutchins was shot.

What is the sentence for involuntary manslaughter?

The Santa Fe District Attorney’s office outlines the charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed in its statement.

“The first charge can be referred to simply as involuntary manslaughter,” the statement says. “For this charge to be proved there must be underlying negligence. Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. This charge also includes the misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law.

“The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. This charge requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. This is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty because a firearm was involved. The firearm enhancement makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.”

When the case goes to trial, the jury will be asked to choose between the two charges for both Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed. That means Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed could go to prison for either a maximum of 18 months or a minimum of 5 years.

Will Alec Baldwin go to jail?

Although prosecutors announced that Baldwin will be charged, the case still has to go to trial. Baldwin has repeatedly stated that he’s not at fault for the shooting because he was told the weapon was cold (that is, containing only dummy bullets). If Baldwin can convince a jury that he’s innocent, he won’t go to jail. However, if the jury finds him guilty of involuntary manslaughter, then he’ll be sentenced to prison time.

Halls, who negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors, will be given six months probation but no jail time.

(via Variety and Vanity Fair, featured image: Bruce Glikas/WireImage)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. She lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and makes yarn on her spinning wheel. You can check out more of her writing at https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.