Alec Baldwin Could Face Manslaughter Charges In Shooting Death
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion
Actor Alec Baldwin is facing major legal issues after accidentally killing someone on the set of his movie “Rust.”
The charges against Baldwin, who is the executive producer on the movie, could be serious and could include negligent manslaughter, legal experts said to The New York Post.
“As an executive producer, you are in a position of control and you can get prosecuted criminally,” Joseph Costa, an attorney with Costa Law in Los Angeles, said. “It’s the equivalent of drinking and driving, meaning someone may not have intended to cause great harm but they do.”
Erlinda Johnson, a former state and federal prosecutor and current criminal attorney, said he could be liable for involuntary manslaughter.
“All the state needs to demonstrate is that he was engaged in a lawful, but dangerous act and did not act with due caution,” the attorney said. “That’s what the state has to prove for involuntary manslaughter, which is a fourth-degree felony with a maximum penalty of up to 18 months in prison.”
She said Baldwin could defend himself by saying that someone else handed him the gun, “but then, well it was incumbent upon him, since he was handling the gun, to make sure there were no rounds.”
“Clearly someone didn’t do their due diligence. They should have been checking those guns to make sure there were no live rounds,” she said.
Denise Bohdan, a defense attorney from Los Angeles, said that “everyone will be sued,” which may be the least of Baldwin’s issues.
“Anyone running that set will be sued, especially when they find out who specifically was cutting corners on the set,” she said.
“Yes, Alec Baldwin was the main producer but it might be found out that another producer did more to cut corners. I don’t think there will be anything as bad as a murder charge but this is going to be a legal nightmare for Baldwin,” she said.
“The facts have yet to come out but as to potential criminal charges they will look to his possible negligence,” Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman criminal attorney Rachel Fiset said. “His problems don’t lie in what he did as an actor. It will certainly come out that he thought he was firing a blank. The real issue is his role as a producer and the safety protocols – or lack thereof – on the set. If real negligence is proven, that could result in criminal charges.”
But there could be some good news for Baldwin, New York City criminal defense attorney Ron Kuby said.
He doesn’t think Baldwin “has criminal exposure” under New Mexico law, but “he certainly has civil exposure as the producer and employer on the movie set.”
“The other thing that’s troubling is that the union members left the set and scabs were brought in to take over,” he said. “Obviously, they failed to follow safety protocols. To the extent that Baldwin authorized the employment of incompetent scab labor, he faces serious liability.”
“Baldwin had no reason to believe he was engaging in dangerous activity,” he said.
Baldwin issued a statement after the shooting, and after photos showed distraught and inconsolable after the tragedy.
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation,” he said on Twitter.
“My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna,” he said.
The police believe that the gun was loaded with a real bullet or part of a real bullet rather than the blanks it was supposed to be armed with.
“There should have been blanks in the gun, the on-set armorer’s job is to check that before handing the weapon over,” Mike Tristan, 60, a Hollywood armorer with three decades of experience, said.
“They then make sure that the actor stands on a mark and never points the gun at the crew or cast… the editing makes it seem like they were pointing at their co-actor,” he said.
‘That’s why everyone in the industry is very confused,” he said. “How this happened is a total mystery at the moment.”