A New Mexico judge is allowing a civil suit against Alec Baldwin and the other producers of Rust to proceed without delay, despite concerns from Baldwin’s legal team over how the lawsuit might influence potential criminal charges against the actor.
As The Associated Press reports, Judge Bryan Biedscheid rejected Baldwin’s motion to dismiss the civil lawsuit brought by three Rust crew members who claim cost-cutting measures put the cast and crew in danger. Baldwin’s lawyer, Robert Schwartz, said the court was putting the actor in an “unfortunate position” by moving forward with the case.
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Schwartz argued that the lawsuit not only put Baldwin at risk of self-incrimination, but discovery, in the lawsuit would potentially dredge up evidence that prosecutors would be able to use if they decide to re-file criminal charges against the actor in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. “No protective order can protect him against that. It just can’t happen,” Schwartz said in court, adding that Baldwin would “assert his 5th Amendment rights” to keep the plaintiffs from getting “any discovery in the meantime.”
The judge, however, wasn’t swayed by Schwartz’s arguments, saying the court would consider Baldwin’s rights as the civil suit proceeded. It’s still unclear whether prosecutors will re-file criminal charges against Baldwin, though it’s possible a decision could be made in the next few weeks.
Schwartz, as well as a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.
Baldwin was initially charged alongside armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed back in January, but lawyers for the pair successfully got the original charges downgraded because they were filed under a firearm law that was passed months after the Rust shooting took place (both pleaded not guilty). Then, both a special prosecutor and the Santa Fe County district attorney had to step down from the case, leading to the appointment of two new special prosecutors in March. In April, prosecutors decided to drop the manslaughter charge against Baldwin without prejudice, though not against Gutierrez-Reed (her trial is set to begin next year).
A major reason charges against Baldwin were dropped — and why they might now be re-filed — involves evidence surrounding the gun. Baldwin has claimed he never pulled, or had his finger on, the trigger; instead, he’s insisted that, during a rehearsal, he pulled the revolver’s hammer back without fully cocking the gun, and the weapon fired when he released the hammer.
When the FBI investigated the shooting last year, it found that Baldwin would’ve needed to pull the trigger for the gun to fire. But in its report, the FBI also admitted that it damaged the gun during testing. Baldwin’s attorneys pointed to the damages when arguing the gun was not a reliable source of evidence. After that, the charge was dropped.
But, just last week, news broke that prosecutors had commissioned a new forensic report, which was completed after firearms experts reconstructed the gun. The new report’s findings matched those of the FBI, suggesting Baldwin would’ve had to pull the trigger for the gun to fire.
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