HomeBusiness'Rust' prosecutor steps down after challenge from Alec Baldwin's defense

‘Rust’ prosecutor steps down after challenge from Alec Baldwin’s defense

Alec Baldwin on Oct 7, 2021 at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Mark Sagliocco | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

The special prosecutor in the “Rust” manslaughter case against actor Alec Baldwin stepped down Tuesday after Baldwin’s attorneys argued that New Mexico’s constitution barred her from serving in that role while being a state legislator.

It’s a major setback in the state’s case against Baldwin and co-defendant Hannah Gutierrez-Reed for the accidental fatal shooting in October 2021 of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the “Rust” movie.

“After much reflection, I have made the difficult decision to step down as special prosecutor in the ‘Rust’ case,” said Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor, in her surprise statement. “My priority in this case — and in every case I’ve prosecuted in my 25-year career — has been justice for the victim.”

“However, it has become clear that the best way I can ensure justice is served in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on the evidence and the facts, which clearly show a complete disregard for basic safety protocols led to the death of Halyna Hutchins,” she said.

Reeb’s decision to recuse herself came after weeks of resistance to that idea by her and First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who appointed her.

“I will not allow questions about my serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand,” Reeb said Tuesday.

Baldwin’s defense lawyers last month filed a motion asking a judge to remove Reeb from the case, arguing that New Mexico’s constitution explicitly bars people from holding a position in one branch of government while executing the powers of another branch.

Luke Nikas, one of Baldwin’s lawyers, reached by CNBC on Tuesday, did not directly comment on Reeb’s recusal but pointed back to the reasoning from his motion to disqualify Reeb in which the defense argued there was “no question that Representative Reeb is violating both the plain text and the purpose of the New Mexico Constitution’s separation-of-powers provision by serving simultaneously as a legislator and a prosecutor.”

It is not clear whether Carmack-Altwies will take over the case or appoint a new special prosecutor. The First Judicial District Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter, both of which carry an 18-month prison sentence. A jury will decide which count of manslaughter applies.

The original assistant director of “Rust,” David Halls, signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, resulting in a suspended sentence and six months of probation.

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