Alec Baldwin was recently indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter for the second time in connection with the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of his film Rust — and legal expert Neama Rahmani is explaining why the charges didn’t stick the first time around.
“I’ve gotten a lot of questions about this case because it’s really been botched by the prosecution,” Rahmani, who is not involved with the case, exclusively told Us Weekly on Tuesday, January 23.
The attorney continued: “Originally, prosecutors came out very aggressively. They charged Alec Baldwin with not only involuntary manslaughter, which has a potential 18-month sentence, but a five-year firearms enhancement, which would’ve put Baldwin away for a minimum of five years in New Mexico state prison if he was convicted.”
Rahmani explained that the firearms enhancement was “retroactive,” meaning the statute did not exist at the time of Hutchins’ death, so it was unconstitutional to use the law to charge the actor.
“Baldwin, who has very good defense lawyers, [was] able to get that stricken,” Rahmani said of the enhancement. “Then, one of the prosecutors in the case had to step down because of a constitutional separation of powers issue because she was a member of the New Mexico state legislature. You can’t be prosecuting cases as a member of the executive branch as well.”
Baldwin, 65, was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter in January 2023, more than one year after Hutchins died at age 42 in October 2021 after Baldwin fired a prop gun on set which was loaded with real bullets. Baldwin denies ever pulling the trigger.
The charges were dropped in April 2023. Special prosecutors Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis released a statement at the time noting that “new facts” in the case required “further investigation and forensic analysis.”
Baldwin’s attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro also reacted to the news. “We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,” the lawyers said in their own statement.
Us Weekly confirmed on Friday, January 19, that Baldwin had been charged with involuntary manslaughter again.“We look forward to our day in court,” Baldwin’s attorneys said in a statement to Us before the legal team filed paperwork emphasizing their “demand for speedy trial, discovery and exculpatory information, notice of defense intent to call witnesses.”
Although Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted, Rahmani told Us that the actor “clearly has the advantage” in the case.
“He’s not going to plead guilty to anything. It’s not just because he has a strong defense on the merits; He [also] cares about his reputation, he cares about his career,” Rahmani said. “I can’t imagine the prosecution giving Baldwin any type of deal [or] Baldwin taking one, because he has such a strong defense here.”
The lawyer added that he thinks prosecutors are “overcharging the case” by going after Baldwin.
“If you look at the facts of this case, there are really three people who are responsible. The armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, she’s also being charged with manslaughter, but she’s the most responsible in my opinion,” Rahmani said. “She’s the one whose job it is to maintain these weapons on set and to make sure they’re safe. Then you have someone by the name of Dave Halls, he was the assistant director and he’s the one who infamously gave Baldwin the gun and told him it was a cold gun.”
Gutierrez-Reed is set to face trial next month for involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering while Halls was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation in March 2023 as part of a plea deal.
Rahmani called Halls’ sentence “basically a slap on the wrist” despite him being “arguably more culpable” than Baldwin. “He’s the one that said the gun was safe, that it either wasn’t loaded or it contained blanks,” he explained.
As for how things will turn out for Baldwin, Rahmani thinks there’s a good chance he’ll prevail.
“I fully expect this case to go to trial, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins,” Rahmani said. “Jurors love celebrities.” A court date has not been set.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi