After prosecutors announced charges against Alec Baldwin for film set shooting, experts say they could be making a 'strange play' to 'threaten' him into taking a plea deal

Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin.ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
  • Prosecutors said Thursday they plan to charge Alec Baldwin in connection to the "Rust" shooting.

  • Making the announcement before charges have been filed could be a legal tactic, experts said.

  • Experts told Insider that prosecutors may be looking to force Baldwin into taking a plea deal.

Prosecutors in New Mexico went to the press Thursday to announce their plans to charge Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter in connection to the film-set shooting of a cinematographer, a move experts said could be an attempt to force a plea deal.

New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies released a press statement saying that her office plans to charge both Baldwin and set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection to the October 2021 death of Halyna Hutchins.

Carmack-Altwies made the announcement before formally charging the pair, saying that charges would come before the end of the month.

Experts told Insider that delaying the charges could be a legal strategy to get the defendants to admit guilt for a lighter sentence. Carmack-Altwies' office did not immediately return Insider's request for comment on Friday, nor did representatives for Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed.

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, told Insider that it could be a "strange play to try and threaten Baldwin and push a plea deal."

Former Los Angeles County prosecutor Joshua Ritter, who is a partner with El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers, also said it could be a strategic move.

"I could see it as a shot across the bow by the prosecution that gives the defense an opportunity to try to negotiate a deal before charges were actually filed," Ritter said.

Rust film set
The "Rust" film set in the immediate aftermath of the fatal shooting.Jae C. Hong/AP

Prosecutors have already made one such deal with assistant director David Halls. According to the Thursday press release, Halls agreed to plead guilty to one charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, and will receive just six months probation.

Rahmani described Hall's plea agreement as a "sweetheart deal" that could be the DA's way of "sending a message to Baldwin and his attorneys that if you don't play ball, if you don't plead guilty, that I'm going to file that firearms enhancement."

Prosecutors say they plan to charge Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. That charge includes a firearm enhancement which makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.

Baldwin was practicing a scene on the New Mexico set of the Western film "Rust," which he is also producing, when the weapon he was holding fired and fatally struck the film's cinematographer, Hutchins, and injured the film's director, Joel Souza.

According to affidavits that were included in search warrant documents, the prop gun was one of three "set up" by the film's armorer, Gutierrez-Reed, and left on a cart. The firearm was then picked up by the movie's assistant director, Halls, who took it to Baldwin for a scene inside a church building on the set, according to the police documents. As Halls handed the gun to Baldwin, he said "cold gun," indicating that the gun did not contain any live rounds, according to the documents. The gun was then fired by Baldwin.

Investigators have still not revealed how a live round ended up in the gun.

Baldwin told ABC News two months after the shooting that he never pulled the trigger, but an FBI report countered that, saying "the revolver could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger."

Following the prosecutors' announcement on Thursday, Baldwin's attorney, Luke Nikas, told Insider that prosecutors' decision to bring charges against the actor "distorts Halyna Hutchins' tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice."

In the days after the fatal shooting, scrutiny focused on the film's armorer, Gutierrez-Reed, with reports from The Daily Beast and The Wrap claiming she exhibited poor gun safety both on the set of "Rust" and a prior project.

Gutierrez-Reed filed a lawsuit against prop supplier PDQ Arm & Prop LLC in January 2022, saying the company caused Hutchins' death by providing a box to the set that contained live ammunition mixed with dummy rounds. Seth Kenney, the owner of PDQ Arm & Prop LLC, denied that the live rounds came from his company in an interview with Good Morning America in December 2021.

An attorney for Gutierrez-Reed told Insider on Thursday that the charges "are the result of a very flawed investigation, and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts."

"Hannah is, and has always been, very emotional and sad about this tragic accident. But she did not commit involuntary manslaughter," lawyer Jason Bowles said in a statement, adding, "We intend to bring the full truth to light and believe Hannah will be exonerated of wrongdoing by a jury."

Read the original article on Insider