The special prosecutor handling the case against actor Alec Baldwin in the 2021 Rust movie set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins announced late on Tuesday she is stepping down – as Baldwin’s lawyers had sought.
The decision by special prosecutor Andrea Reeb came a month after Baldwin’s attorney filed a motion to remove her because she is also a representative in the state legislature.
The Baldwin team argued it violates the state constitution for a legislator to serve in another branch of government.
Baldwin on 23 February entered a not guilty plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Two others have been charged. The production’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, will plead not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, her lawyer has said. The assistant director, Dave Hall, has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge.
“The best way I can ensure justice is served in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on the evidence and the facts, which clearly show a complete disregard for basic safety protocols led to the death of Halyna Hutchins,” Reeb said in a statement. “I will not allow questions about my serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand.”
Mary Carmack-Altwies, New Mexico’s first judicial district attorney, did not immediately say who would replace Reeb and declined to comment except to say paperwork on Reeb’s removal had been filed with the court.
Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, referred through a spokesperson to his motion to disqualify Reeb under the New Mexico constitution’s separation-of-powers provision.
The prosecution initially charged Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed with a firearm enhancement that was later dropped, reducing their possible prison sentence from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 18 months.
Gutierrez-Reed has blamed the shooting on potential sabotage, Baldwin’s lack of firearms training and a failure by Halls and Baldwin to call her on to set for extra firearm checks.
Baldwin, 64, has repeatedly said he was told by the crew that the gun was not loaded.
The former 30 Rock star has also previously insisted he did not pull the trigger, though FBI firearms experts have said this is not possible.
Lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed have said they are confident the young armorer will be cleared.
The assistant director, Dave Halls, who handed Baldwin the weapon and told him it was “cold” – industry speak for safe – will serve a suspended sentence and six months of probation.
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