‘Rust’ criminal probe will continue, D.A. says, after Alec Baldwin settles lawsuit with family of cinematographer killed
Nearly a year after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed on the film set of “Rust” in an incident involving a prop gun fired by producer and actor Alec Baldwin in New Mexico, the Hutchins family and Baldwin have reached an undisclosed settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, filming will resume next year on the low-budget western with the cinematographer’s husband, Matthew Hutchins, as executive producer, according to his statement.
Joel Souza, the director injured alongside Halyna, will also return to the project, he said. The case will be dismissed as part of the settlement, which is subject to court approval in New Mexico.
After the family of Halyna Hutchins settled their wrongful death suit with the producers of ‘Rust’ including Alec Baldwin, what does it mean for any criminal case?
“The filming of Rust, which I will now executive produce, will resume with all the original principal players on board, in January 2023,” Matthew Hutchins said in a statement Wednesday. “I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin). All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.”
Nonetheless, the resumption of “Rust” is sure to be controversial, and the district attorney said Wednesday that her criminal review will proceed.
Hutchins’ death sent shock waves through the film industry, which is still grappling with how to respond. Hollywood has not seen a case like this since 2014, when Sarah Jones, a camera assistant, was killed during unauthorized filming on a train track in Georgia.
The settlement announcement comes days after Baldwin provided data from his cellphone to law enforcement investigators and as Santa Fe 1st Judicial Dist. Atty. Mary Carmack-Altwies considers whether to bring criminal charges in the case.
In a late August letter to the New Mexico Board of Finance, Carmack-Altwies asked for additional funding for her office to potentially pursue several high-profile prosecutions. The letter, which was reviewed by The Times, said that she may prosecute up to four people, including Baldwin, who fired the weapon that killed Hutchins, 42, leaving behind her husband, Matthew, and their 10-year-old son.
“The proposed settlement announced today in Matthew Hutchins’ wrongful death case against Rust movie producers, including Alec Baldwin, in the death of Halyna Hutchins will have no impact on District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies’ ongoing investigation or her ultimate decision whether to file criminal charges in the case,” said Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for district attorney’s office.
“While civil suits are settled privately and often involve financial awards, criminal cases deal only in facts,” Brewer added in a statement. “If the facts and evidence warrant criminal charges under New Mexico law then charges will be brought. No one is above the law.”
The criminal probe is separate from the civil lawsuit, which Hutchins’ family filed earlier this year. It was unclear Wednesday whether the confidential settlement will have any bearing on the outcome of the criminal investigation, although legal experts told the Times it could complicate the D.A.'s case.
The settlement brings to a close just one prong of the fallout from the “Rust” tragedy. The production and Baldwin still face multiple lawsuits in Los Angeles and New Mexico.
“Throughout this difficult process, everyone has maintained the specific desire to do what is best for Halyna’s son. We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the resolution of this tragic and painful situation,” Baldwin wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. Baldwin has denied wrongdoing.
However, should Baldwin be charged with a crime, potential terms of his release might prevent him from returning to the film set or interacting with potential witnesses, such as Souza.
“The District Attorney has no opinion on film production schedules,” Brewer said. “However, if there are charges in the case, pretrial release conditions — such as prohibitions against using or possessing firearms or having contact with victims and witnesses — could severely impact the ability of the production to proceed on the suggested timeline.”
Several other producers as well as the company Rust Productions were also defendants in the lawsuit.
“We are pleased the parties came together to resolve this matter, which, subject to court approval, marks an important step forward in celebrating Halyna’s life and honoring her work,” said Rust Movie Productions LLC through its attorney, Melina Spadone of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
In a statement, Souza said he planned to return to the film.
“In my own attempts to heal, any decision to return to finish directing the film could only make sense for me if it was done with the involvement of Matt and the Hutchins family,” he said in a statement. “Though certainly bittersweet, I am pleased that together, we will now complete what Halyna and I started. My every effort on this film will be devoted to honoring Halyna’s legacy and making her proud. It is a privilege to see this through on her behalf.”
The lawsuit was filed in February in Santa Fe against the film’s production companies, producers, other members of the crew and Baldwin.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars, was killed on the set of ‘Rust.’ Here’s everything we know so far.
The lawsuit alleged that Baldwin and other producers of the low-budget film sacrificed crew members’ safety by hiring inexperienced crew members and disregarding safety concerns expressed earlier by camera crew operators.
The suit named armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, alleging she was responsible for maintaining the weapons on set and did not verify that the revolver or ammunition were safe before first assistant director Dave Halls handed the gun to Baldwin. The complaint also accused Halls of failing to verify the revolver was safe.
Attorneys for the Hutchins family also singled out Baldwin, who, according to the lawsuit, refused training in the “cross-draw” maneuver that he was practicing that day — just four feet from Hutchins and other crew members. Baldwin has denied culpability and said he did not pull the trigger that discharged the bullet that struck Hutchins.
The other defendants in the civil case, including Gutierrez Reed and Halls, did not appear to be part of the settlement. However, if the judge approves the settlement, the allegations against the other parties will also be resolved.
“Hannah is grateful that this settlement will benefit the Hutchins family and that the parties were able to constructively resolve the civil lawsuit,” said Jason Bowles, lead attorney for Gutierrez Reed. “We are hopeful that the district attorney’s office will also recognize that a measure of justice has been achieved in regards to this tragic accident, and that they will opt not to pursue criminal charges.”
Gloria Allred, attorney for script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, who has a pending suit against the producers, said her client is “very happy that Halyna’s son and family have reached a settlement that they believe is fair to them. However, Mamie will continue her pursuit of justice in her civil case, and she will also be willing to testify in a criminal case if one is filed.”
Allred added that Mitchell, who was standing next to Hutchins when she was shot, won’t join the production when it resumes because “she is too traumatized to return to that set.”
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