Prosecutors allege Alec Baldwin engaged in 'horseplay' and acted recklessly on 'Rust' set

CORRECTS THAT SHOOTING OCCURRED DURING A REHEARSAL - FILE - In this image from video released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, Alec Baldwin speaks with investigators following a fatal shooting on a movie set in Santa Fe, N.M. Filming on the Western movie "Rust" could resume this week in Montana, the production company said Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a cinematographer during a rehearsal with actor Alec Baldwin on the original production in New Mexico. (Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Alec Baldwin speaks with investigators after the Oct. 21, 2021, fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the "Rust" movie set in Santa Fe, N.M. (Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office / Associated Press)

"Rust" movie star Alec Baldwin has long maintained that he didn't pull the trigger of his Colt .45 when the gun discharged on Oct. 21, 2021, killing the film's cinematographer, who was standing about four feet away.

“I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them,” Baldwin told anchor George Stephanopoulos during an ABC News interview less than two months after the tragedy.

But New Mexico special prosecutors appear determined to prove that the actor-producer did pull the trigger that day and that he acted recklessly throughout filming of the low-budget western movie near Santa Fe, leading to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Erlinda O. Johnson this week previewed the evidence that they intend to introduce at the July trial. In a Monday court filing, Morrissey and Johnson said they should be allowed to show jurors several videos and other photographic evidence that depicts Baldwin acting carelessly, including an image that shows his finger on the trigger while preparing for scenes.

The 66-year-old actor was indicted by a Santa Fe grand jury in January on one count of involuntary manslaughter. Baldwin, who did not know the gun contained live ammunition, has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison.

Baldwin's attorneys declined to comment on the latest court filings.

Read more: New Mexico judge denies Alec Baldwin's motion to dismiss criminal case in 'Rust' shooting

The filing by Morrissey and Johnson alleged that Baldwin did not take gun safety seriously.

During his sole gun training session provided by the movie's armorer before filming began, Baldwin "engaged in horseplay with the revolver" and "was distracted by texting/face timing family members and making videos for his family’s enjoyment," the prosecutors wrote.

Baldwin, who was one of the film's producers, contributed to the unsafe conditions by taking control of the set and ordering crew members to work faster, the prosecutors wrote.

He "rushed the armorer to reload and crew members to work at a faster pace," Morrissey and Johnson wrote in the filing. He once "used his gun as a pointer directing crew members."

Read more: Full coverage: The fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the ‘Rust’ set

Grand jurors in January determined there was sufficient evidence that Baldwin acted negligently by pointing a loaded gun at Hutchins without first checking the weapon for ammunition. The film's director, Joel Souza, was also injured in the shooting but recovered.

Last month, Baldwin's attorneys argued that the criminal charges should be thrown out.

“The state has sought to convict and imprison Baldwin for an accident caused by the mistakes of others,” Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas wrote in a motion to dismiss the indictment. He and his co-counsel, Alex Spiro, have argued that prosecutors were bent on winning a conviction of the high-profile actor-producer at all costs.

But New Mexico 1st Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer denied their motion, clearing the way for Baldwin's trial, which is scheduled to start July 9 with jury selection and which is expected to last eight days.

The two sides have been wrangling over whether the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, should be called as a witness. She was convicted by a different jury in March of involuntary manslaughter. Marlowe Sommer sentenced Gutierrez to 18 months in a New Mexico women's prison.

Prosecutors want Gutierrez to testify about Baldwin's alleged conduct with his gun on set.

Read more: The day Alec Baldwin shot Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza

Set in 1880s Kansas, the movie ”Rust” centers on a 13-year-old boy who goes on the run with his estranged outlaw grandfather (played by Baldwin) after being sentenced to death for the accidental killing of a local rancher. Baldwin co-wrote the movie with Souza.

Actors union SAG-AFTRA and Baldwin's legal team have argued that Baldwin should not be charged in Hutchins' death. Gun handling and safety is not an actor's responsibility — instead, it is the armorer's, they have said.

Among the pieces of evidence that Morrissey intends to introduce at Baldwin's trial:

"Minutes before the 911 call was made reporting the shooting of Mr. Souza and Ms. Hutchins, Mr. Baldwin was photographed ... manipulating his prop gun," Morrissey wrote. "He appears to have his finger inside the trigger guard and his thumb on the hammer."

Earlier that morning, script supervisor Mamie Mitchell "took a cell phone video of Mr. Baldwin wherein he appears to cock the gun and possibly pull the trigger," Morrissey wrote.

One video taken on set a couple of hours before the shooting shows that "Mr. Baldwin is asked to look at the camera and pull his gun and point his gun in the direction of 'camera left.' Mr. Baldwin is not instructed to cock the gun, but he cocks the gun despite not being asked to cock the gun," Morrissey wrote.

Baldwin "engaged in horseplay with the revolver while making videos during his firearms training while using pull load blanks," according to Morrissey's filing.

He "displayed erratic and aggressive behavior during the filming of Rust that created potential safety concerns [and] displayed reckless behavior as it related to the use of a firearm, such as pointing it and firing a blank round at a crew member while using that crew member as a line of site as his perceived target," she wrote.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.