Potential legal woes mount after Rust shooting tragedy
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Alec Baldwin the actor, who pulled the trigger on a prop gun while filming Rust in New Mexico and unwittingly killed a cinematographer and injured a director, likely won’t be held criminally or civilly liable for the tragedy.
But Alec Baldwin the producer might be, along with several others in leadership positions for the Western.
Experts predict a tremendous legal fallout from the tragedy, definitely in civil lawsuits and potentially in criminal charges. In addition to Baldwin, a call sheet for the day of the shooting obtained by The Associated Press lists five producers, four executive producers, a line producer and a co-producer. They, as well as assistant director Dave Halls and armorer Hannah Gutierrez, could all face some sort of liability even if they weren’t on location Thursday.
The payouts — which could be covered in part by insurance held by the production company, Rust Movie Productions — would likely be in the “millions and millions” of dollars.
“There was clearly negligence on the set,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and a gun policy expert. “The producers had a duty to preserve the safety of the crew. There were obvious hazards on the set.”
Santa Fe-based District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told the AP on Tuesday that the investigation remains in the preliminary phase and her office was far from making any decisions about whether any charges would be filed. She added that those involved in the production were cooperating with law enforcement.
There are “a lot of people involved and a lot of moving parts,” the first-term elected prosecutor said of the circumstances surrounding the shooting death on the set of Rust.
Authorities said Friday that Halls, the assistant director, had handed the weapon to Baldwin and announced “cold gun,” indicating it was safe to use. But it was loaded with live rounds. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot, and director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, was wounded.
Baldwin, who is known for his roles in 30 Rock and The Hunt for Red October and his impression of former President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, has described the killing as a “tragic accident.”
The production of Rust has been beset by disputes from the start in early October and included seven crew members walking off the set just hours before the shooting. The Los Angeles Times, citing two crew members it did not name, reported that five days before the shooting, Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two live rounds.