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‘Rust’ assistant director pleads guilty to gun charge

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An image of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died after being shot by Alec Baldwin on the set of his movie “Rust”, is displayed at a vigil in her honour in Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 23, 2021.

Kevin Mohatt | Reuters

David Halls, the “Rust” assistant director who handled the gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021, pleaded no contest Friday to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

The plea makes Halls the first person held criminally accountable in Hutchins’ death. Actor Alec Baldwin and the independent movie’s original armorer, Hanna Gutierrez-Reed, are both charged with manslaughter over Hutchins’ death. 

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry 18-month prison sentences.

The New Mexico judge overseeing the “Rust” case sentenced Halls to six months of unsupervised probation, a $500 fine and 24 hours of community service.

Halls will also have to complete a firearms safety course, as well as testify in upcoming “Rust” hearings or trials, per New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer’s ruling. Halls had previously agreed to the plea deal in January.

Preliminary hearings for Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are expected to start in early May. 

Notably, Friday’s hearing was the first to be conducted under the supervision of the case’s new special prosecutors, Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis. 

To date, “Rust” proceedings have been routinely disrupted by complications concerning the appointment of the case’s previous special prosecutor. 

The first special prosecutor for the case, Andrea Reeb, stepped down earlier this month, after Baldwin’s defense lawyers filed a motion requesting her removal.

At the heart of the request for Reeb’s removal was her allegedly contradictory commitments: Reeb was named special prosecutor before being elected to New Mexico’s legislature. Baldwin’s lawyers argued the state’s constitution prevents people from simultaneously serving as prosecutor and legislator. 

While Reeb and the district attorney’s office initially rejected the motion, Reeb’s decision to step down was followed by a New York Times report in which Reeb suggested in a June 2022 email that working on the case could help her political career. 

Complications only continued from there. On Monday, Mary Carmack-Altwies, the New Mexico district attorney who had overseen the “Rust” case, was given a directive from Judge Marlowe Sommer: Either recuse yourself from the case, or lose your ability to appoint a new special prosecutor. 

On Wednesday, Carmack-Altwies recused herself. In her place, she appointed Morrissey and Lewis. 

“My responsibility to the people of the First Judicial District is greater than any one case, which is why I have chosen to appoint a special prosecutor in the ‘Rust’ case,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement.

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