New Mexico special prosecutors dropped charges against actor Alec Baldwin in the shooting death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Friday, marking what legal experts said was a logical conclusion to a flawed prosecution.
The move followed new evidence about the gun Baldwin was holding when it fired the bullet that killed Hutchins during the movie’s filming, a person close to state prosecutors said.
The information further undermined the prosecution’s case after a series of legal fumbles, pushing them to dismiss charges ahead of a May hearing where a judge was to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to try Baldwin and “Rust” armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
“The case is dismissed without prejudice and the investigation is active and ongoing,” prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis said in a filing.
Prosecutors said they would continue to charge Gutierrez-Reed, 25, with involuntary manslaughter. She has said she loaded the live round into the gun mistaking it for a dummy round. The preliminary hearing on her case was pushed back to Aug. 9.
The dismissal of the same charge against Baldwin came after attorney Luke Nikas last week in Santa Fe presented evidence to the prosecution that the reproduction single-action long Colt .45 “Peacemaker” used by Baldwin had been modified with new parts since its manufacture by Italian gunmaker F.LLI Pietta.
The information compromised the prosecution’s argument the gun was in fully functioning order and could only have fired if Baldwin recklessly pulled the trigger, according to the person familiar with the case.
Special prosecutors said on Thursday they might refile charges against Baldwin once new evidence was examined. Many legal experts doubted that.
“This very weak case against Baldwin should never have been filed in the first place,” said Ambrosio Rodriguez, a former prosecutor with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in California. “I don’t see how they could ever prove their case with this new evidence.”