TAOS, New Mexico— New Mexico special prosecutors on Friday dropped charges against actor Alec Baldwin in the 2021 shooting death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, marking what many legal analysts said was a logical conclusion to a flawed prosecution.
The move followed new evidence about the gun Baldwin was holding when it fired the bullet that killed Hutchins during the movie’s filming in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a person close to state prosecutors said.
The information undermined the prosecution’s case after a series of legal fumbles, pushing them to dismiss charges ahead of a May hearing when a judge was to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to try Baldwin and “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
“The case is dismissed without prejudice and the investigation is active and ongoing,” prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis said in a filing.
Prosecutors continued to charge Gutierrez-Reed, 25, with involuntary manslaughter. She has said she loaded the live round into the gun mistaking it for a dummy round. The preliminary hearing on her case was pushed to Aug. 9.
The dismissal of the same charge against Baldwin came after his attorney last week presented evidence that the reproduction Colt .45 used by Baldwin had been modified with new parts since its manufacture by Italian gunmaker F.LLI Pietta.
The information compromised the prosecution’s argument the gun was in full working condition and could only fire if Baldwin had recklessly pulled the trigger, according to the person familiar with the case.
Special prosecutors said they might refile charges against Baldwin once new evidence was examined, though legal experts doubted it.
“This very weak case against Baldwin should never have been filed in the first place,” said Ambrosio Rodriguez, a former prosecutor with Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, California.
Filming of “Rust” resumed in Montana this week with many of the same principal actors, including Baldwin, and was expected to be completed in May.
Rust Movie Productions (RMP) said in February it would not restart filming in New Mexico, without citing a reason. A Santa Fe prosecutor charged Baldwin and others in January.
—Reporting by Andrew Hay; Additional reporting by; Editing by Frank McGurty and Cynthia Osterman