US prosecutors have charged actor Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter in the case of the death of a woman after he shot her with a firearm while filming a movie in New Mexico.
US prosecutors said Baldwin was using the phone while training in the use of firearms, which were supposed to be loaded with claw gear, in order to shoot one of his films, which saw his cinematographer killed on set.
The Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office has accused the famous American actor of “many extremely reckless acts”.
Photographer Helena Hutchins died while preparing for the movie “Rust” in New Mexico, after being shot by Baldwin with a firearm that was used for filming purposes.
The firearms official and creator of the film’s armor was also charged with involuntary manslaughter.
In a statement on probable cause of involuntary manslaughter, Special Investigator Robert Schilling for the US Attorney’s Office wrote that Baldwin was “distracted” talking to family members on his mobile phone while practicing how to operate the gun.
Schilling argued that “the tragedy would not have happened” had the actor Baldwin conducted the mandatory safety checks with the film’s armor maker Hannah Gutierrez Reed, and also not pointed the gun at photographer Hutchins.
“This reckless deviation from known standards, practices and protocol directly caused this fatal shooting,” the US investigator added.
Schilling stressed that Baldwin knew that “the first rule of gun safety is never to point a gun at someone you don’t intend to shoot.”
On the other hand, lawyers for Baldwin and Ms. Gutierrez-Reid said earlier that they intend to respond to the accusations in court.
While New Mexico prosecutors said they had strong evidence to charge both Baldwin and Ms. Gutierrez Reid with the murder of Hutchins, a photographer.
The charges were first announced on January 19 and were formally filed by Tuesday’s deadline.
If convicted, Baldwin and Ms. Gutierrez-Reid could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Prosecutors said the two defendants would be tried by a jury.
Hutchins died in hospital after being shot in the chest with the handgun that Baldwin allegedly fired during a rehearsal at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.
Baldwin has previously denied responsibility for the shooting. Prosecutors alleged that he argued in media interviews that he did not pull the trigger on the gun and that it only “exploded”.
Prosecutors added that photos and video clips from the shooting during the filming of the western movie Rust depicted Baldwin practicing drawing the gun and firing several shots with his finger on the trigger inside and out.
In addition, FBI officials found that the gun could not be fired without pulling the trigger, according to a report sent by the agency to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.
Baldwin had sued Gutierrez Reid and other people involved in the preparation of the film, alleging they failed to carefully examine the gun.
Gutierrez Reid, who is in charge of weapons and armor in the film, said she verified the gunshots were fake before handing them to the film’s assistant director Dave Holz, who then handed them to Baldwin and told him the gun was not loaded.
Gutierrez-Reid also told the New Mexico Workplace Safety Agency after the shooting that the accident could have been prevented had she had more time to train Baldwin in handling the gun intended for the shoot.
A preliminary investigation into the incident found there was a “degree of negligence,” and the New Mexico Department of the Environment fined the producers more than $136,000 for failing to implement safety protocols.
Prosecutors said Assistant Director Halls entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of negligence in the use of a deadly weapon. He will spend six months on probation.
When the charges were first announced, an attorney representing Hutchins’ husband, Matthew Hutchins, said the cinematographer’s family had supported the charges. “It is a great relief for the family in New Mexico that no one is above the law,” he added.