State allots money for potential 'Rust' prosecutions
Last updated 9/23/2022 at 3:31pm
SANTA FE -- The state Board of Finance has awarded the First Judicial District Attorney's Office more than $317,000 to prosecute people connected to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on set of the Alec Baldwin film "Rust" in October, according to the board's website.
The money — awarded in response to an emergency request from District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies — is only about half of what the District Attorney's Office estimates it will need to bring charges against up to four people, according to a copy of the request obtained by The New Mexican.
The DA's Office had requested $635,000 to cover the cost of prosecuting the case.
Carmack-Altwies' request says the money will be used to pay a special prosecutor — the DA announced last month she'll contract with retired Clovis-area prosecutor Andrea Reeb for that position — plus a special investigator, paralegal, media spokesperson and numerous experts to work on the case.
"Experts in firearms, the handling of firearms on movie sets, and safety protocols on move sets must be retained immediately," Carmack-Altwies wrote in the request she and other staffers presented to the board Tuesday.
"If the First Judicial District Attorney ... were to take funding for the 'RUST' prosecution out of the general fund, there would not be enough funding to pay our employees, expert witnesses needed for other cases and general everyday expenses of the office," Carmack-Altwies wrote in the request.
"We will be requesting a special appropriation for the rest of the money," Carmack-Altwies said Thursday.
Carmack-Altwies declined to comment on which cast or crew members could face criminal charges in connection with Hutchins' death and the wounding of director Joel Souza, who was injured by the same bullet that killed Hutchins.
"One of the possible defendants is well known movie actor Alec Baldwin," according to the request, which says the prosecution of the movie set shooting "could require up to 4 separate jury trials."
Asked which specific charges could be brought in the case, Carmack-Altwies said her office is "certainly looking at all the homicide statutes and any gun statutes under New Mexico criminal code."
Hutchins was killed during a rehearsal in October 2021 by a bullet fired from a gun held by Baldwin, the film's star and co-producer. The bullet passed through her body and also injured Souza, according to reports from the time.
Baldwin has maintained he never pulled the gun's trigger, contending the weapon simply went off — official accounts have used the word "discharged." But a recently released FBI forensic report determined the weapon could not have fired without someone pulling the trigger.
The film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, has been named in several civil lawsuits regarding the incident, including a wrongful death claim filed by the cinematographer's family.
Carmack-Altwies stopped short of saying she will definitely file charges in the case.
If her office decides to bring charges, she said, it will be through the use of preliminary hearings to determine whether there is enough evidence to prosecute individuals.
The district attorney wrote in her request her office could not wait until the Legislature meets early next year to ask for the funding because the case "needs to be prosecuted immediately."
Carmack-Altwies said she still has not received the final investigation report from the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office.
"The reason for our emergency request is because we expect to receive the final report soon," she said.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza released an update on his office's investigation into the case last month, noting the agency still needed to review a report from the state Office of the Medical Investigator and Baldwin's phone records before completing its investigation. It's not known if the Sheriff's Office has received the phone records.
Sheriff's office spokesman Juan Ríos provided no new information Thursday in response to a request for an update
"Once the case file is completed, reviewed by supervisors and approved for release, the sheriff's office will then forward the case to the district attorney," Ríos wrote in an email. "At this time I do not have a time frame for you."