Alec Baldwin’s Rust Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Dismissed
Celebrity lawyer Christopher C. Melcher, who is ranked as a best family law attorney in California, analyzes Alec Baldwin‘s Rust involuntary manslaughter charges being dismissed on Fox.
Giacomo Luca:… Prosecutors on Friday formally dismissing the charges against Alec Baldwin, an involuntary manslaughter charge against Alec Baldwin in the fatal 2021 shooting of cinematographer on the set of the Western film, Rust, citing new evidence and the need for time to investigate. In a stunning turnaround for the 65-year-old A-list actor, special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis filed a notice to dismiss the only remaining criminal allegation against Baldwin in a state district court in Santa Fe.
For more on this controversial case, I now want to bring in attorney Chris Melcher, a partner at the Southern California-based Walzer Melcher & Yoda law firm. Chris, thanks so much for joining us today.
Chris Melcher: Well, thanks for having me.
Giacomo Luca: Talk to me, first off your reaction to the charges being dropped in this case against Mr. Baldwin.
Why Alec Baldwin’s Charges Were Dropped
Chris Melcher: Well, it’s not entirely over. They do have the right to refile the charges. And really what was happening is that this prosecuting office in New Mexico was not equipped to handle a high-profile case like we see in Los Angeles or other big cities, and it really got off to a bad start. There were a number of mishaps in that prosecution and eventually the prosecution team got replaced, and that new team wanted to take more time to analyze the evidence before proceeding with this preliminary hearing that was scheduled. So charges are dropped now, but they are subject to being refiled if the new prosecution team decides that it wants to pursue it.
Giacomo Luca: Now, initially, these charges against Alec Baldwin for involuntary manslaughter, of course he was the person that pulled the trigger, but I don’t believe it’s ever been in question whether or not he loaded the gun, whether or not he knew there was a bullet in it at all. Talk to us about the complexities of this case given the circumstances in this.
Chris Melcher: Sure. So Alec was an actor and also producer on the film of the Rust Shooting incident. And as an actor, he’s not expected to be a firearms expert, but every film in the United States has a set of standards that require a prop master or armorer to be in charge of gun safety and ultimately, it’s the producer’s responsibility to make sure that that gun is safe on set. This happens every time.
Alec has used weapons many times on set before. It takes a matter of seconds when the gun is handed to the actor to physically and visually inspect it to make sure that it’s not going to hurt somebody. And this did not happen on this set. And the reason why is that these were low-budget producers who were trying to save money and hired Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who had never been an armorer before, and put this young lady in this position and then called her out of that scene to do something else. So that gun was never checked. It was handed to Alec. He pointed it at these other individuals… and I know he says he didn’t pull the trigger, but guns don’t just spontaneously go off… and this fired and shot both of them and killed Halyna Hutchins.
Giacomo Luca: The fact that the prosecutors brought the manslaughter charge initially, would that surprise you in any other case outside of the fact that we’re dealing with an A-list actor?
Chris Melcher: No, it doesn’t surprise me at all. I mean, Alec Baldwin accepted a real gun. So this wasn’t a prop or a toy. It was a real gun that had what was supposed to be dummy rounds in it without checking it himself or making sure somebody else showed it to him to check. He pointed that gun at two individuals and the gun went off, and we know what happened. Involuntary manslaughter is the failure to use due care when handling a weapon. So this doesn’t surprise me at all.
Alec Baldwin’s Defense Statement
Alec’s defense is that he didn’t check the weapon because the scene did not call for anyone pulling the trigger.
And he said if he knew that he was going to pull the trigger, he would’ve checked.
That is a bogus defense because he was going to point the gun at people, and so we need to use care. He needed to use care before pointing a real firearm at other people.
Why Alec Baldwin’s Defense is Bogus
He needed to check it or have somebody check it before he pointed it at them, and he did not do so. That was reckless on his behalf, and it is involuntary manslaughter.
Giacomo Luca: The Rust shooting case is certainly a difficult case that we’re continuing to follow. Definitely not over there. Now Chris, where do you think this case goes from here in terms of, one, on Alec Baldwin’s case and then again on the armorer, who is also continuing to face charges in this as well?
Chris Melcher: Well, the charges are persisting against the armorer, and she ultimately was responsible and she failed to make sure that that gun was safe on set. There had been two other discharges of a weapon on that set, and so these producers were on notice that gun safety rules were not being followed. So charges are appropriate against her.
Charges Against the Armorer
Alec also, as a producer of this low-budget film, bears that responsibility. However, this armorer is really being thrown under the bus in a way because she was hired to save money. And now everyone is saying, well, we were relying on this young lady to make sure safety was done.
Alec Baldwin says, I didn’t do anything wrong at all. Well, that obviously can’t be true because Halyna Hutchins lost her life, and the industry has a perfectly clear set of rules that make common sense, that are easy to follow. We just need to make sure that they’re going to be followed. But when we have Alec Baldwin and the others involved in this production saying nothing happened, they’re never going to learn and it could happen again.
Gun Safety on Sets
Giacomo Luca: Now I know you’ve been working in Hollywood for quite a bit, working with celebrities in Southern California, and you follow the movie scene as well. How often does things like this happen on Hollywood movie sets, be it either in California or all across the world? I mean, what kind of care is taken to make sure that safety is a priority?
Chris Melcher: Well, unfortunately, it has happened before. Brandon Lee was shot and killed on a movie set by a supposedly unloaded weapon. And this happens. And the gun safety rules are so simple. It’s just we got to treat guns as if they’re loaded and have that respect. This is a deadly weapon. It’s not a toy. And don’t point the gun at people unless we’re convinced that this thing is unloaded.
It would’ve taken seconds to do that check. So I am disappointed at the industry that we have some saying like, hey, he’s an actor. He didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not his responsibility. Well, whose responsibility was it and what steps are going to be taken?
Right now, they’re in production of Rust again, and Alec Baldwin is handling, again, real firearms on the set. And I have a question for Alec. What are you doing now in making sure that those weapons are safe that you didn’t do then, and why didn’t you do it then? Because it’s the same production, same actor, different weapons, but still real weapons being used on a set. How is he able to do it safely now that he wasn’t able to do it before? Obviously, there were failures and people have lost their lives and it will continue happening until people follow these basic rules.
Giacomo Luca: No doubt anytime you take a real firearm and you point it at a camera where people are, there’s always a risk of seriousness and especially whether it’s a movie scene or anywhere else in this country for that matter, you got to be incredibly careful.
Chris Melcher, top family law attorney out of Los Angeles, speaking with us today on the very latest out of that Rust movie set. Any closing thoughts, Chris?
Chris Melcher: Well, thanks, Giacomo. I appreciate you bringing light to this because we’ve seen tragically people hurt or killed with weapons that they were convinced were unloaded. And so the lesson from Rust here is these are deadly weapons. Treat them as such.
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