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Charges being dropped against Alec Baldwin in shaky ‘Rust’ case

The troubled prosecution against the actor may finally be over. But the latest prosecutors on the case say they're still investigating.


UPDATE (April 21, 2023, 11:32 a.m. ET): This post has been updated to reflect a statement issued by special prosecutors in the fatal "Rust" film set shooting that cites unspecified "new facts" leading them to drop charges against actor Alec Baldwin.

The prosecution of Alec Baldwin by New Mexico prosecutors in the “Rust” film set shooting case may finally have come to an end that seemed destined from the start.

NBC News reported Thursday that prosecutors are dropping the involuntary manslaughter charges against the actor in the 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin was rehearsing with a pistol for a scene when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

News of the case against Baldwin going away, at least for now, won’t come as a great surprise to Deadline: Legal Blog readers. We’ve been tracking the troubled effort every step of the way, since charges were brought back in January, when I (and others, to be sure) opined that prosecutors had a tough task ahead of them.

That was before prosecutors had to drop the gun-charge enhancement in February that carried the most potential prison time for Baldwin, because the law establishing the enhancement was enacted after the alleged crime. That rudimentary charging error was followed by the special prosecutor at the time, Andrea Reeb, who's also a state legislator, withdrawing from the case, after Baldwin’s lawyers claimed that it violated the separation of powers for her to serve as both a law enforcer and lawmaker.

First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies in Santa Fe, who said she needed outside help because her office didn’t have enough resources, also stepped down from the case, leaving it to new special prosecutors after the defense argued she couldn’t justify staying on alongside them. Her office declined to comment to NBC News on Thursday.

So why, exactly, are the charges being dropped against Baldwin?

In a statement Thursday, the new special prosecutors, Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis, said that, ahead of an upcoming hearing, "new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis in the case," so they "cannot proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form." Yet, they stressed that they're still investigating and charges may be refiled.

The prosecutors didn't specify what new facts were revealed, but NBC News confirmed reporting from other outlets that the new information in the case was that the prop gun used in the deadly shooting had been modified.

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was also charged alongside Baldwin, and the special prosecutors said those charges against her remain unchanged. Her lawyers said they expect her to be exonerated, NBC News reported.

Ultimately, while the prosecution has seemingly been plagued from the start, it’s sad not only for the defense to have to fend off potentially shaky charges, but for Hutchins' loved ones. If there was going to be a fight in her name, they have deserved a better one so far.