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Alec Baldwin charged in 'Rust' shooting

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Actor Alec Baldwin faces criminal charges in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie "Rust." Baldwin was the film's lead actor and a producer. He was holding the prop gun that went off during a rehearsal. The bullet killed Hutchins and wounded the director, and the production's armorer was also charged today. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has been following this story since last year when all of this happened and joins us in studio now. Hey, Mandalit.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hey.

CHANG: So can you just tell us more about these charges and what they could actually mean for both Alec Baldwin and the armorer?

DEL BARCO: Sure. Well, Alec Baldwin and the set's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed each face two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Those are both four - fourth degree felonies. The first one is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. And the second, because a firearm element was added, carries a mandatory five-year sentence. Yeah. So authorities have investigated the shooting, trying to figure out who's responsible for what happened during a rehearsal of a scene on a ranch outside of Santa Fe. And in a statement today, the New Mexico district attorney's office said the evidence showed a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the film set. By the end of this month, the charges will be officially filed. Now, Ailsa, there was another person charged with negligent use of a deadly weapon; that was Assistant Director David Halls. He signed a plea deal, and he faces a suspended sentence and six months of probation. The special prosecutor in the case said that - in a statement that if Halls, Gutierrez-Reed or Baldwin had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today.

CHANG: Well, what are Baldwin and the others saying so far about these charges?

DEL BARCO: Well, Baldwin's attorneys vowed to fight the charges, which they call a terrible miscarriage of justice. They said in a statement, quote, "Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun or anywhere on the movie set." He relied on the professionals, which - with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. Now, Baldwin has maintained he was not criminally responsible. He even went on ABC TV to recount how he'd been rehearsing with Hutchins behind the camera.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEC BALDWIN: Now, in this scene, I'm going to cock the gun. And I said, do you want to see that? And she said, yes. So I take the gun, and I start to cock the gun. I'm not going to pull the trigger. I said, do you see that? She goes, well, just cheat it down and tilt it down a little bit like that. And I cocked the gun. I go, can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that? And she says - and then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off.

DEL BARCO: Now, as for Gutierrez-Reed - yeah. As for Gutierrez-Reed, her attorney sent a statement today that said she did not commit involuntary manslaughter and that she will be exonerated by a jury. He said, quote, "these charges are the result of a very flawed investigation and an inaccurate understanding of the full facts."

CHANG: Well, what about Halyna Hutchins' - her family - like, what are they saying about these charges?

DEL BARCO: Well, the Hutchins say they support the charges and will fully cooperate with the prosecution. In a statement, they said it is, quote, "it is a comfort to the family that in New Mexico, no one is above the law." Now, Ailsa, it was just a year and a half ago that Baldwin had reached a settlement with Hutchins' husband, Matthew. At the time, he said he dropped the wrongful death lawsuit he filed against Baldwin and the other producers with "Rust" productions. And as part of that agreement, the film - the filming of "Rust," was to resume this month in January with Hutchins' widow serving as an executive producer. But now we'll just have to see if "Rust" ever gets made.

CHANG: That was NPR's Mandalit del Barco. Thank you, Mandalit.

DEL BARCO: Thank you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.