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What Are the Odds of Alec Baldwin Facing Criminal Charges?

The fatal shooting incident The fatal shooting incident that involved one of the most-loved contemporary actors, Alec Baldwin, has shaken Hollywood and triggered multiple questions about on-set safety rules and the future liability of the people responsible for the tragedy.

On October 21st, 2021, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins got fatally wounded and died and writer-director Joel Souza got injured by Alec Baldwin in a shooting incident that occurred during production on set of his newest Western movie, Rust, on which he serves both by actor and producer. After the shooting took place, the production of the movie has been halted, while an investigation into the incident is taking place.

Although some experts initially backed Baldwin, saying he was unlikely to face criminal charges after he fired a prop-firearm on the set of Rust, killing the Ukrainian cinematographer and injuring the writer-director, the district attorney of the Santa Fe County noted that criminal charges were not to be ruled out. In November, a script supervisor filed a lawsuit, claiming that the actor disregarded protocol that led to the tragic incident.

According to some experts, as an actor, Alec Baldwin would probably have little liability for the incident, but a producer, bearing legal responsibility for the shooting could be a whole different story. Still, what are the chances of the 63-year-old Hollywood star facing criminal charges?

Legal Experts Confirm Baldwin Could Bear More Liability as a Producer

Baldwin Could Bear More Liability Following the tragic incident on October 21st, legal experts commented that lawsuits naming Alec Baldwin are a virtual certainty. However, according to them, any potential criminal charges are likely to be addressed on the person who prepared the prop gun that the actor fired on set, sadly killing Halyna Hutchins and wounding Joel Souza.

As Jamie White, a legal expert in both civil and criminal defence prosecutions, pointed out at the time, filing a civil lawsuit would be pretty normal if Baldwin or another person on set was negligent to safety rules. However, Mr White has explained that the criminal side of the legal action would be fact-sensitive, with criminal consequences expected to follow only in case someone demonstrated reckless negligence. Considering the fact that it was not Alec Baldwin’s job to prepare prop guns, he said it was unlikely for him to face such consequences.

After the incident, a spokesperson for the Hollywood star has explained that a prop gun with blanks misfired. No immediate charges against him were filed at the time.

At the time when the investigation started, key facts in the case had not been publicly confirmed. That included the identity of the person who loaded the prop gun, the type f cartridges the weapon had been loaded with, as well as how and why the shot was made.

Based on the scarce information about the incident in the days after the cinematographer’s death, legal experts have explained that Baldwin was unlikely to be charged with an intentional act of violence. However, charges with significant negligence were much more likely to be placed, experts noted.

According to Miguel Custodio, a personal injury attorney based in Los Angeles, Rust Movie Productions and the prop manager responsible for preparing the weapons could face liability. At the time, he confirmed that a potential lawsuit is likely to name Alec Baldwin due to his role as a producer, and not so likely due to his role as an actor. Custodio explained that as an actor, the 63-year-old Hollywood star could face little liability because he was supposed to trust the prop manager to have checked the weapons out. However, he explained that, as a producer, Baldwin may bear more responsibility, depending on whether he had a more active role in the movie-making process or is just an investor.

A Murder Charge Unlikely to Be Faced by Baldwin, Experts Say

A Murder Charge Unlikely to Be Faced by Baldwin Following the incidents, legal experts confirmed that a murder charge is unlikely because it requires the intent to cause the victim’s death.

The president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, Neama Rahmani, who is also a former federal prosecutor, said at the time that there had been no evidence that Alec Baldwin intended to kill Halyna Hutchins.

Mr Rahmani explained that a manslaughter charge might be more likely, as it does not require the intent to kill but requires gross negligence or criminal negligence. According to reports, the prop gun was loaded with real bullets and if these claims turned out to be true, this would be a case of gross negligence, and the person who had loaded the gun would be held legally responsible.

Mr Rahmani further noted there had been no reports of Baldwin having any knowledge at the time that the gun was loaded with a real bullet instead of a blank. This would mean that he would probably not be held criminally liable for the incident. According to the former federal prosecutor, if a live round were loaded by mistake by the person handling the production weapons, the legal action filed in court would probably be a case of simple negligence, which would not bring criminal liability to the defendant.

The case of willful ignorance or deliberate indifference could be the only circumstance that could bring criminal charges to a person who did not know that the bullet in the gun was live. However, such a circumstance is very hard to prove.

According to Mr Rahmani, everything comes down to what the gun was loaded with, who put it in, and what this person knew at the time when they put the round in the weapon.

Legal Action Claims the Shooting Incident Should Not Be Considered “Simple Negligence”

Ms Mitchell saw him fire a gun intentionally Mamie Mitchell, the script supervisor on set who called 911 after Alec Baldwin produced the shot that injured writer-director Joel Souza and eventually killed Halyna Hutchins on October 21st, 2021, claims in a lawsuit that the actor disregarded set protocol rules, which led to the deadly shooting. So far, no amount for loss of future earnings, punitive damages, general and special damage, and attorney fees associated with the lawsuit has been revealed.

According to her legal action, Ms Mitchell saw him fire a gun intentionally toward Halyna Hutchins on the movie set. Moments later she saw the director holding his upper body and falling backwards, while the cinematographer fell to the left of the script supervisor.

As mentioned above, the lawsuit claims that Mr Baldwin intentionally, with no obvious rhyme or reason, cocked and fired the loaded gun. The script supervisor also claims that the upcoming scene did not require the cocking and firing of the gun. Ms Mitchell noted that every single safety protocol that was in place to make sure that the team on set was protected was ignored, including the presence of live ammunition on set.

The legal action against Mr Baldwin and the movie production company also named the armourer on the Rust movie set, Hanna Gutierrez-Reed, as a defendant. At the time when the lawsuit was filed, her legal representative, Gloria Allred, shared that, when it comes to guns, there were warning signs of the dangerous working conditions on the set just days before the incident that took place on October 21st.

The attorney noted that, as reported by a camera operator, there were 2 guns discharged during a rehearsal in one of the cabin shots. According to the attorney, the events that resulted in the tragic shooting incident could not be categorised as “simple negligence” because the producers and all the staff members on set demonstrated recklessness by not complying with the guidelines that are in place whenever using guns and live ammunition.

In her lawsuit, Ms Mitchell says that as an experienced actor, 63-year-old Baldwin should have known that he should have been handed a gun only by an armourer or a prop master, and not by the assistant director as it was the case. She claims that Baldwin should have known better and not relied on the representation of the assistant director that the gun handed to him was a “cold gun”.

Alec Baldwin’s Lawyers Seek Dismissal of the Lawsuit against the Hollywood Star

Alec Baldwin’s Lawyers Seek Dismissal The attorneys of the Hollywood star have addressed a Los Angeles court, asking it to dismiss the legal action started by one of the script supervisors on the Rust movie set. As mentioned above, the plaintiff Mamie Mitchell claims that literally all safety protocols were disregarded by the actor and the producers, which sadly led to the deadly on-set shooting.

On January 24th, Mr Baldwin’s attorneys filed the dismissal plea in LA Superior Court, saying that the actors had not intended any harm as alleged by Ms Mitchell. At the time, they noted that nothing about the allegations lodged by the plaintiff suggested that any of the defendants had committed the harmful conduct intentionally. The attorneys also argue that any compensation must be made from the workers’ compensation system of New Mexico that covers incidents that happen on the job, and say that Ms Mitchell’s allegations suggest negligence, and not assault.

As reported above, the script supervisor claims that all safety protocols regarding firearms on set had been ignored during the production and that the actions taken on the day of the incident had been against all industry norms.

Baldwin Faces Enhanced Criticism for His Sincerity Following Quick Return to Work, Deletes Twitter Account

Baldwin Deletes Twitter Account Earlier this month, an industry expert has shared that Alec Baldwin’s quick return to work could undermine the confidence in his sincerity, especially considering the fact that after the shooting incident on the Rust set he said he might never return to acting again.

On February 8th, the 63-year-old Hollywood star was spotted in Hampshire, England, on the set of 97 Minutes, which is the first project of the actor since the Rust shooting took place in October, leaving cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead. Baldwin himself acknowledged his first day back at work with a vlog-type of post on Instagram, describing the experience as “strange”.

Dave Quast, a crisis PR expert of Banyan criticised Baldwin for jumping into his next role too quickly after the tragic incident, despite him saying he might never return to acting. According to him, the quick return to the job might raise some questions on the sincerity of Mr Baldwin.

According to brand expert Eric Schiffer, the trip of the Hollywood actor to England to film 97 Minutes was inconsiderate because it created further pressure on prosecutors to show there was no dual justice system, considering the fact that some celebrities and elite members can openly violate the norms and evade justice.

According to reports, Ukrainian cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ death is still being investigated by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department in New Mexico. For the time being, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has not ruled out the possibility of Mr Baldwin facing criminal charges as a result of the on-set shooting that led to the tragic incident that killed one staff member and injured another.

In December 2021, only days after an emotional interview on ABC in which he commented on the fatal shooting, the Hollywood star deleted one of his two verified accounts on Twitter. As confirmed by the actor, his @alecbaldwin account, which he used to make his first official statement about the October 21st shooting incident and the consequent death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, was no longer available on the social network. Although he shared he was cooperating with the police to address the facts related to the incident, Baldwin faced much criticism on Twitter.

The other verified Twitter account of the actor, @AlecBaldwln____, is still functioning but, after the tragedy, it has been set to private, with the tweets being protected. Since the beginning of November 2021, the official Twitter account of Mr Baldwin’s wife, @HilariaBaldwin, was restricted to approved followers but was later deleted and remains so to this date. The official account of the actor’s foundation – @ABFalecbaldwin – also remained active, but it also allows access to tweets to approved followers only. Later, its Twitter handle was changed to @AlecBaldwin.

Hollywood Must Consider the Rust Shooting a Tragic Accident, Industry Expert Says

The Rust Shooting a Tragic Accident Of course, not everyone criticises Alec Baldwin for returning to his job after the tragedy. Some of the actor’s supporters do not believe that his decision to return to filming will bring negative consequences for him. According to the CEO of Newsroom PR, brand expert Howard Breuer, no matter if the actor is found liable in a trial, he has the right to return to work, not to mention that getting back to work would be “good therapy” for him, and it had probably been recommended by his therapists and attorneys.

Newsroom PR’s boss also noted that Hollywood probably sees the Rust shooting as an incident, otherwise the actor would probably have not been offered new roles.

Although the outcome of the ongoing legal action is hard to be predicted, Mr Breuer noted that if Hollywood and the public were convinced that the intentionally fired toward Halyna Hutchins and what happened was anything other than a tragic accident, Baldwin would have probably faced the same fate as Kevin Spacey. He also explained that it cannot really be predicted whether the links between the incident and Baldwin’s name would discourage viewers from checking the movie out.

 Author: Hannah Wallace

Hannah Wallace has been part of our team since the website was launched. She has a master’s degree in IT.