Why prosecutor says she’s pursuing criminal charges, regardless of if “Rust” shooting was accidental

A distraught Alec Baldwin lingers in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s offices after being questioned on October 20, 2021. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican)

Prosecutors plan to charge actor Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter in the deadly 2021 “Rust” film shooting.

“‘Rust’ actor and producer Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the film’s Santa Fe County set in 2021,” New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced in statement Thursday morning.

Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with two counts of manslaughter, meaning a jury will decide not only whether the two are guilty, but also under which legal definition of involuntary manslaughter.

In either case, a conviction is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine, according to the district attorney.

But one definition would involve a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, because a firearm was involved. In that case, the crime could be punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.

The district attorney said no charges will be filed specific to the non-fatal shooting of the film’s director, Joel Souza.

“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” Carmack-Altwies said in the statement. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”

CNN has reached out to Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed for comment.

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