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Alec Baldwin Charged with Manslaughter

Alec Baldwin Charged with Manslaughter

Ever since the deadly shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin’s movie “Rust,” the speculation has been running high as to whether the actor would be charged with a crime in conjunction with the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins – or would he walk.

To refresh the memory of the event, Baldwin was handed a gun that he was told was safe (loaded with a blank).   In an unofficial rehearsal, Baldwin aimed the gun directly at Hutchins.  The gun went off, hitting her in the chest.  The bullet passed through her body and wounded Director Joel Souza.  No charges were filed against Souza even though he could have been charged based on his overarching responsibilities on the set.

Thems the facts, folks.  And now for the nuances and debatable “facts.”.

Baldwin claimed that he never pulled the trigger – and only pulled back the hammer.  Ballistic tests by experts determined that the gun could not fire unless the trigger was pulled.

Since then, most pundits and observers said that Baldwin would not be charged.  He was told the gun was safe. He was not, they argued, culpable in any way.  Some believed that Baldwin would never be charged because he is a rich and powerful Hollywood personality.  Maybe both of those facts play heavily in Baldwin’s favor.

Of course, the gun should have been safe.  Established procedures require that guns on the set were to manage by an armor – whose primary duty is to inspect the guns before every use.  The armor, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, handed the gun to Assistant Director Dave Halls– assuring him it was safe.  Halls was also required to inspect the gun to ensure that it was safe before handing it to Baldwin.  He apparently just passed it on to Baldwin.  Obviously, both the armor and the assistant director failed in their responsibilities.

So, why should Baldwin be held accountable?

First of all, Baldwin was the Executive Producer for the movie.  That means he is potentially responsible for anything that happens on the set.  He is also responsible for the conduct of his underlings – in this case, the assistant director and the armor.  

But that is not enough to get Baldwin a criminal charge.  It does expose him to a civil suit by Hutchins’ family.  Though it received little media attention, that has already been done with an out-of-court settlement that awarded an unspecified amount of money to the Hutchins family.  It did not settle the feelings, however.  The family issued a statement applauding Baldwin’s indictment for “negligent manslaughter.”  (Not the kind of “applause” Baldwin is used to.)

When it was learned that the prosecutor, in this case, was about to announce a decision regarding Baldwin, virtually every media panelist predicted that there would be no charges.  One former federal prosecutor even said that Baldwin’s defense was to explain that the actor was handling what was essentially a “toy gun.”

(What?  A real bullet from that gun killed one and wounded another.  And the media prosecutor would try to convince a jury that it was merely a toy gun?  I am no lawyer, but I think that would be hard to sell to 12 folks.  But I digress.)

Prosecutors do not indict unless they believe they have a better than 50/50 chance of securing a guilty verdict.  So, what is the case to be made against Baldwin?

It turns out that Baldwin also has a responsibility in the handling of gun on a set.  He arguably failed to meet that responsibility – acted recklessly – and a person died.

He was also supposed to inspect the gun himself to make sure there were no live rounds in any of the chambers.  Blanks and live rounds are distinctively different – and Baldwin was — or should have been –familiar with the differences.

There is a general prohibition against having ANY live ammunition on a movie set in which guns are part of the production.  As Executive Producer, he bears some responsibility for that failure – especially when it has been rumored that he was aware of live rounds being used on the set for recreational purposes.

Also, Baldwin violated the general prohibition of never pointing a gun – believed to be loaded or unloaded – at another human being.  Baldwin aimed directly at Hutchins — even though in no scene would she have been standing at the business end of a pistol.  Why did he point it at her to test fire it?  That is a question for the jury to decide.

Apparently, they were not officially rehearsing a scene, and Hutchins was not recording at that moment.  It was more or less a personal rehearsal of drawing the gun and aiming.  Again, why at Hutchins, and why was it necessary to pull the trigger?  (It is not likely that Baldwin’s claim of never having pulled the trigger will hold up in court against expert testing and testimony.)

I am inclined to go with the prosecutor in this case — with a better than 50/50 chance Baldwin will get convicted.  If not, it will be due to the issue of “celebrity privilege” that has enabled a lot of bad actors (no pun intended) to avoid justice.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Rat Wrangler

    Here is a very important question that has yet to be answered in any of the articles about this incident; are actors required to undergo firearms safety training if they are to hold even a prop gun? If not, then there is no reason to assume that Mr. Baldwin knew anything about safe handling of the so-called “cold” gun he was handed. The armorer should bear all responsibility for this tragedy, not an actor who happened to be seriously misinformed about the situation. Or it may be that he was lied to, and the armorer or the assistant director involved knew the gun had live ammo. Until we actually find out why live ammo was on the set and how it wound up in the gun, we’ll never know the real truth of the matter.

    • Joan Perkins

      If you’ve been reading anything for the past few years, you would see tthat Baldwin had a vendetta against this frmale & her husband because they exposed him in another dirty deed. AND why is he lying if he’s so “innocent”. The man has been a pariah in Hollywood for yrears but has bought his way out of everyting.

    • larry Horist

      Rat Wrangler …. the armor has also been charged. And as I understand it, anyone who uses a gun in a scene is trained and required to check the gun. It does seem from the facts there is an argument to be made that Baldwin was reckless — and that is worthy of a court decision.

  2. Tom

    Baldwin should not be singled out. This tragic incident has threads of responsibility in a select group whom all were negligent. They should all be tried for negligent homicide together and sentenced together. The civil suit does not matter. Moving forward, all persons handling a gun in the movie and theater industries should be required to take a gun safety course, followed by yearly refresher course. Period. I know this means more regulation, but it is obvious human nature is the root cause of the failure and only regulation will change the nature in this type of incident. And the relationship between the victim and all involved in the armorer should be investigated for love affairs gone wrong and potential rape incidents that the victim was holding in reserve. I sense there is much more to this than just negligence!

    • Larry kuhn

      An anti gun Hollywood liberal with a gun crime charge? Interesting

      • Frank stetson

        It was the tool?

        Baldwin is a tool?

        Slow news day Larry or are you getting your JD?

        We agree, which makes you wonder why you wrote it ;-). Then again, my contention is it’s prosecutorial discretion to indict after seeing The Phantom.

        Seriously, it looks like the EP set the stage for these events to occur: incompetent, inexperienced staff, real guns, real bullets, broken rules and stanards, lots of complaints. I like your 50/50 view; this one looks probable. Conviction? They should, but still risky.

        • larry Horist

          Frank Stetson …. Slow news day? Baldwin’s indictment was big new. Oh …. you only think of politics as news?? I do comment on other things

          • frank stetson

            Just not your usual main course, just a chuckle, that’s all.

    • larry Horist

      Tom … the armor was also indicted. Why the assistant director was not, is a mystery to me. There were three folks who mishandled the weapon — and maybe others who were responsible for live ammo on the set and loading the gun with live rounds.

  3. Ray welch

    I believe the key point is basic gun handling requirements. Anyone who picks up a gun, before they do anything else should verify that it is unloaded and the safety is on. If you do not do this and point it at someone and pull the trigger you are liable for any subsequent result. Period. And that should be the total court case.

  4. Leonard Collings

    There is no such thing as an accidental discharge.

    • frank stetson

      That’s what all the pro-lifers say: God’s will :>)