Alec Baldwin charged again with involuntary manslaughter in 'Rust' shooting

A New Mexico grand jury has charged Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the deadly shooting of a cinematographer during production of the ill-fated western movie "Rust."

The indictment, filed Friday, was signed by special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey, who has been handling the case.

If convicted of the charge, a fourth-degree felony, Baldwin could serve up to 18 months in prison, according to New Mexico law.

The high-stakes decision to charge the actor comes more than two years after Baldwin accidentally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and director Joel Souza during an Oct. 21, 2021, rehearsal in an old western church at Bonanza Creek Ranch, a popular high desert movie location south of Santa Fe, N.M. Hutchins died that afternoon, and Souza, who was shot in the shoulder, recovered.

“We look forward to our day in court,” Baldwin’s attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, said in a statement.

Read more: The day Alec Baldwin shot Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza

New Mexico's wrongful death prosecution has been fraught. In January, the district attorney who oversees Santa Fe County, Mary Carmack-Altwies, filed two involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin as well as the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who loaded the gun. Carmack-Altwies said at the time that "sufficient evidence" existed to charge Baldwin criminally.

But after Carmack-Altwies stepped down from the case, Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis took over as special prosecutors. In late April, they dropped the charges against the 65-year-old Hollywood star.

"New facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis,” Morrissey said at the time. Sources who were not authorized to comment said prosecutors were told the gun had been modified before being delivered to the set.

The actor has long maintained that he didn't pull the trigger, only that he pulled back the gun's hammer. When Baldwin was handed the gun, he was told that it was "cold," meaning it had no ammunition. However, the gun contained five so-called dummy rounds and one live bullet.

A respected firearms expert, Lucien C. Haag, was brought in by prosecutors to determine whether the Italian-made Pietta pistol, a replica of a vintage 1873 model, was functional or faulty, which could have contributed to the deadly accident on set.

“Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” Haag wrote in his Aug. 3 report.

Read more: Alec Baldwin has long lived at the center of a storm. Now comes a hurricane

The weapons provider, Seth Kenney, said in a July witness interview that the gun Baldwin used was new. Kenney said he had just received it from a California supplier, via FedEx, and he transferred it to the prop master who was hired to work on "Rust."

Baldwin was one of the producers of the film. The star — who achieved acclaim for performances on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” as well as movies “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and “The Hunt for Red October,” among others — could now face a criminal trial or accept a plea bargain.

The actor made a brief surprise return to "SNL" in November, even as the possible grand jury charge loomed.

Gutierrez Reed still faces involuntary manslaughter charges. The judge overseeing the criminal case, Mary Marlowe Sommer, has scheduled a Feb. 21 trial for Gutierrez Reed. She has pleaded not guilty.

Investigators have not identified the source of the live bullets; six were found on set.

Read more: Full coverage: The fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the ‘Rust’ set

“Rust” producers were determined to finish the story of Harland Rust, a fictional 1880s Kansas outlaw, played by Baldwin. They resumed filming the movie in Montana last spring after Morrissey and Lewis dropped the initial charges against the star.

Producers have said the movie will be a tribute to Hutchins, the 42-year-old film cinematographer who died.

Times staff writer Ryan Faughnder contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.