BY Elizabeth Stauffer, The Western JournalFebruary 11, 2023
1 year ago

Alec Baldwin Grandfathered In? Lawyers Point Out Major Change to Law in 2022

Attorneys for actor Alec Baldwin, who currently faces charges of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of his film "Rust," are arguing that Baldwin was charged in the October 2021 death under a version of a New Mexico law that wasn't passed until 2022.

If Baldwin were to be convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of 18 months under the law on the books in 2021, according to The New York Times. The new version of the law, HB 68, signed by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last March, increases the maximum sentence to five years.

In a motion filed Friday, Baldwin attorney Luke Nikas wrote, “The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a version of the firearm enhancement statute that did not exist on the date of the accident.”

Nikas has a valid point. Baldwin should be charged based on the laws in place at the time of the incident. Changes to the law made after the fact should have no bearing on the case.

The Times reported that Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, said in a statement that Friday's motion was an “attempt to distract from the gross negligence and complete disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set that led to Halyna Hutchins’s death."

“The special prosecutor’s focus will always remain on ensuring that justice is served and that everyone -- even celebrities with fancy attorneys -- is held accountable under the law," the statement said.

On Jan. 31, both Baldwin and the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, were charged with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins' death.

Lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed filed a similar motion on Friday. The Times reported that attorney Jason Bowles "noted that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed was not holding the firearm when it discharged, arguing that the conduct she is accused of does not fit the language of the statute."

The debate over which version of the statute to apply also "hinges on the exact wording of the law," according to the Times.

"The version on the New Mexico books when Ms. Hutchins was killed ... applies when a weapon is 'brandished' in the commission of a noncapital felony. The newer version imposes a minimum five-year sentence if a firearm was 'discharged' in the commission of a noncapital felony.

"According to the law’s definition of 'brandished,' the action must be done 'with intent to intimidate or injure a person.'"

In their motion, Baldwin's lawyers pointed out that nowhere in the statement of probable cause is Baldwin accused of acting "with intent to intimidate or injure a person."

In the statement, Robert Shilling, a special investigator for the district attorney’s office, laid out the prosecution's case against Baldwin. The actor is accused of negligence that "directly caused the fatal shooting."

Shilling wrote, "BALDWIN was not present for required firearms training prior to the commencement of filming. Statements, depositions from [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration], and evidence show BALDWIN was provided only minimal training on firearms, even after REED requested more training for BALDWIN."

In a December 2021 interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Baldwin claimed he did not pull the trigger.

Although these remarks and others did not win him much sympathy, there's no indication that Baldwin acted with any malicious intent. It was an unfortunate accident caused by a man who ignored the most basic rules of firearm safety.

Sadly, the results of his negligence were deadly. And Baldwin should be subject to the laws that existed in the state at the time of the incident.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Elizabeth Stauffer, The Western Journal

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