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Alec Baldwin Was Offered Lenient Plea Deal, Before Prosecutors Withdrew It

Alec Baldwin was offered a deal last October to plead to a misdemeanor — and apparently serve no jail time — in the accidental shooting on the set of “Rust,” according to a filing made public on Friday.

But before he could decide whether to accept the terms, prosecutors withdrew the offer and told his lawyers they would seek to indict him, the filing states.

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Baldwin was indicted in January on a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and now faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted at trial in July.

The latest revelation about the retracted plea offer was included among hundreds of pages of material made public Friday as part of Baldwin’s effort to throw out the case.

According to the documents, special prosecutor Kari Morrissey offered “a plea deal identical to the petty misdemeanor deal accepted by Dave Halls.”

Halls, the first assistant director on “Rust,” did not serve prison time after pleading last year to a count of negligent handling of a deadly weapon. Instead, he was given six months of unsupervised probation, a $500 fine, 24 hours of community service, and an order to take a firearm safety class.

The filing states that the offer was made on Oct. 5, and Baldwin was given until Oct. 27 to decide whether to accept it. However, on Oct. 17, prosecutors informed Baldwin’s lawyer that the deal was off and they were proceeding to the grand jury, according to the filing.

Morrissey confirmed the plea offer in a filing that was made public on Tuesday. In it, she said that she offered Baldwin the same terms as Halls out of fairness to Baldwin and “in the spirit of ensuring that similarly situated defendants do not receive disparate treatment.” She told the court that she withdrew the offer after learning of “Mr. Baldwin’s ongoing conduct that will continue to cause harm to the victims and their families.”

That conduct was left unspecified.

The filing also accuses Baldwin of attempting to persuade witnesses to the killing to participate in a documentary about Hutchins’ death “in the hopes of improving his long-tarnished public image.”

Baldwin’s lawyers have accused the New Mexico prosecutors of a litany of abuses, and are seeking to have the case dismissed.

Among the allegations is a claim that Morrissey, the lead prosecutor on the case, repeatedly leaked confidential information about the grand jury proceedings to an NBC News reporter.

In November, Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas filed a motion for sanctions over that issue, seeking to have Morrissey and her co-counsel Jason Lewis removed from the case, and asking the court to impose monetary penalties against Morrissey.

In the motion, made public on Friday, Nikas alleged that Morrissey prejudiced the grand jury process by telling the New York Times in October that she would bring Baldwin’s case to the grand jury on Nov. 16. That led at least one sitting grand juror to ask if he could participate in the Baldwin case, according to the filing.

At a confidential hearing on Nov. 15, the judge overseeing the case admonished the parties not to disclose anything about the grand jury proceedings to the media, citing the risk that it could taint the case, according to the filing.

The judge also postponed the grand jury proceeding from November to Jan. 18, to give more time to review the material the defense wished to be presented to the grand jury.

Nikas alleges that within an hour of the hearing, Morrissey called the NBC News reporter to relay the scheduling update. The same day, NBC News reported that the grand jury proceeding had been postponed. The outlet also cited an “unnamed source” as saying that prosecutors hoped a trial would “humble” Baldwin and serve as a “teachable moment.”

In response, Nikas filed the confidential sanctions motion on Nov. 20, alleging that Morrissey had clearly violated the judge’s secrecy order. Hours after submitting it, he received a call from the NBC reporter, who was seeking comment about it.

According to Nikas, the reporter stated that Morrissey had called her and read her substantial portions of the motion, and “yelled at her for publishing Morrissey’s statements disclosing the grand jury information and motivations for prosecuting this case, and threatened to serve her with subpoenas.”

Nikas thanked the reporter for the information and declined to comment, according to his affidavit.

Morrissey filed an opposition to Baldwin’s sanctions motion, which was not made public as part of the motion to dismiss.

The filing was made public on Tuesday. In it, the prosecutor noted that Baldwin has given a number of interviews on the case, and accuses him of trying to use his celebrity status and the national news media “to sway public opinion” in favor. Morrissey alleged that Baldwin and his lawyer of playing a role in the NBC News story, given its “timing and sympathetic tone.”

She also denied that the state’s limited public comments on the case have been prejudicial. She did not deny talking to NBC News, or saying that a trial would “humble” Baldwin — though she did deny that that was the reason he is being prosecuted.

“Charges against Mr. Baldwin are not being pursued because of his criminal history, his impressive level of arrogance, or to teach him a lesson,” Morrissey wrote.

She also said that she did call the NBC News reporter to discuss the sanctions motion, but added that “I did not yell at anyone, nor did I threaten anyone with subpoenas.”

None of the filings reveals the outcome of the motion, though Morrissey and Lewis remain on the case.

Morrissey also referenced a number of Baldwin’s public run-ins, including an assault on a photographer in 2012, getting kicked off an airplane for using his phone in 2011, punching a man in a fight over a parking spot in 2018, and an infamous 2007 voicemail in which Baldwin called his daughter a “rude, thoughtless little pig.”

Morrissey alleged that Baldwin has a history of using the media to garner sympathy in the wake of those incidents, and that he has done so again on the “Rust” case.

Nikas wrote that those remarks underscore “the illicit motivations behind this prosecution.”

Morrissey also asserted she told grand jury witnesses about the outcome of the Nov. 15 hearing, but not the media.

Morrissey declined to comment about the motion to dismiss the case in an email on Thursday evening.

“We will only respond in court pleadings and have 14 days from tomorrow to file our response,” she wrote.

Updated with information from the prosecutor’s opposition to the sanctions motion, which was made public on March 19.

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