HomeLife StyleAlec Baldwin Is Charged, Again, With Involuntary Manslaughter

Alec Baldwin Is Charged, Again, With Involuntary Manslaughter

A grand jury in New Mexico indicted Alec Baldwin on Friday on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, reviving the criminal case against him in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the film “Rust” more than two years ago when a gun he was rehearsing with went off.

The indictment, which came exactly one year after the first involuntary manslaughter case against him was announced, was the latest reversal of fortune for Mr. Baldwin. The local district attorney’s initial case fell apart and the initial charge against Mr. Baldwin was dismissed in April. But a new prosecution team, Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis, decided to present the case to a grand jury, which indicted Mr. Baldwin on Friday.

In New Mexico, an involuntary manslaughter conviction on a charge like the one Mr. Baldwin faces can carry up to 18 months in prison.

“We look forward to our day in court,” Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, said in a statement on Friday.

Mr. Baldwin — who both starred in and was a producer of “Rust,” a western — has maintained that he was not responsible for the death of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, saying that he was told the gun did not contain any live rounds and that there was not supposed to be any live ammunition at all on the set. He has also maintained that he did not pull the trigger when the gun fired, although a forensic report commissioned by the prosecution determined that he must have pulled the trigger for it to go off, contributing to their decision to revive the criminal case.

For months, the possibility of a new indictment has hung over Mr. Baldwin, 65, who has rarely been one to maintain a low profile. As prosecutors prepared to bring their case before the grand jury, the actor made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” drew headlines following a heated exchange with a protester at a pro-Palestinian demonstration, and posted frequently on Instagram about politics and his family. But there have been signs that Mr. Baldwin, who has said in court papers that the case has made it harder for him to get acting work, may be facing financial pressures: He recently put his 10,000-square-foot home in the Hamptons on the market for $19 million, appearing in a real estate advertisement for the property.

The grand jury of 12 people convened to hear the case at the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico in Santa Fe starting on Thursday. At least eight jurors had to agree that there was probable cause to indict.

The indictment charged Mr. Baldwin with two different counts of involuntary manslaughter, but he can only be convicted of one. The more serious one accuses him of “total disregard or indifference for the safety of others,” while the other accuses him of the negligent use of a firearm. Both are felony counts.

Several witnesses testified before the grand jury, according to the indictment, including Alexandria Hancock, a detective involved in the initial investigation; Ross Addiego and Lane Luper, crew members on “Rust”; Marissa Poppell, a crime scene technician who worked on the case; and Bryan Carpenter, a consultant on industry practices around firearms.

On the day of the shooting, Oct. 21, 2021, the production was setting up a tight frame of Mr. Baldwin’s character — a grizzled outlaw named Harland Rust — drawing an old-fashioned revolver from a shoulder holster and pointing toward the camera when the weapon fired. A bullet struck and killed Ms. Hutchins and wounded the movie’s director, Joel Souza. In the aftermath of the shooting, investigators found five additional live rounds on the set, but law enforcement officials who have investigated the case have never put forward a theory about how they wound up there.

The movie’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for weapons and ammunition on the set of the film, also faces an involuntary manslaughter charge. She pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in February.

Dave Halls, the movie’s first assistant director, who was in charge of safety on set, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the case, avoiding prison time.

The legal question has been whether Mr. Baldwin acted with “willful disregard” for the safety of others when he handled the gun that day — even though the actor had been told the gun did not contain any live ammunition, and live ammunition was banned on set.

The prosecutors who initially handled the case — Mary Carmack-Altwies, the Santa Fe County district attorney, and Andrea Reeb, a lawyer who was named a special prosecutor — argued that he did.

They brought charges against him one year ago, in January 2023, arguing that both as an actor and as a producer on the movie, Mr. Baldwin had a responsibility to ensure the gun did not contain live rounds. His lawyer and others in the film industry, including armorers and actors, contested that idea, saying that actors are expected to trust the professionals hired to manage weapons on set. SAG-AFTRA, the union representing film and TV actors, said at the time that the “prosecutor’s contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is wrong and uninformed” and that “an actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert.”

The prosecutors’ original case broke down amid challenges from Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers, who noted that Mr. Baldwin had been improperly charged under a law that did not exist at the time of the shooting, and that Ms. Reeb was improperly serving simultaneously as a special prosecutor and a member of the New Mexico Legislature.

After Ms. Reeb stepped down, and a judge ruled that the district attorney could not appoint a new special prosecutor to work on the case without stepping down herself, Ms. Carmack-Altwies handed the case off to a new team of prosecutors, Ms. Morrissey and Mr. Lewis. They dismissed the original charge against Mr. Baldwin after receiving new evidence indicating that the gun may have been modified in a way that could have made it easier to discharge without the trigger having been pulled.

They reserved the right to recharge Mr. Baldwin after sending the gun for further inspection. A new forensic report written by Lucien C. Haag determined that Mr. Baldwin must have pulled the trigger, finding that the gun needed two pounds of pressure to fire.

But in order to conduct the testing, Mr. Haag had to replace parts of the gun, which had been damaged by the F.B.I. during its own analysis. That complication is certain to be raised by Mr. Baldwin’s defense, who have called the revived prosecution “misguided.”

Mr. Baldwin has said that he pulled back the hammer of the gun, and that when he released it, without pulling the trigger, the weapon discharged.

“Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” Mr. Baldwin said in a television interview a little more than a month after the shooting. “Someone is ​responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”

Prosecutors have been continuing to investigate how the live rounds made it onto the film set. In September, Ms. Morrissey wrote an email to a lawyer for Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, which he recently published in a court filing, saying that if Ms. Gutierrez-Reed were to come forward with information about the source of the live rounds, it would “go a long way toward getting her a favorable resolution.”

Last year, as the original criminal case against him faltered, Mr. Baldwin spent weeks finishing the filming of “Rust,” which producers decided to complete as a tribute to Ms. Hutchins.

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