Alec Baldwin seeks dismissal of charges in Rust killing

Jun. 24—Actor Alec Baldwin asked a Santa Fe judge Monday to toss criminal charges against him, claiming the FBI destroyed a firearm central to criminal charges he faces in a shooting death on the "Rust" movie set.

First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said Monday she will issue a written order by Friday on Baldwin's request.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin July 9 in Baldwin's trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of the movie's cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.

Baldwin has maintained that he did not pull the trigger of the prop Colt .45 revolver he was holding on Oct. 21, 2021, during a rehearsal on the movie set. The gunshot killed Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

Baldwin's attorneys argued Monday that law enforcement acted in bad faith when ordering FBI testing that damaged the firearm.

"This is an outrageous series of events," Baldwin's attorney, John Bash, said Monday. "It would have been the easiest thing in the world to disassemble the firearm and carefully photograph and measure the parts. They didn't do that."

The Santa Fe Sheriff's Office, which ordered the FBI testing, was aware of Baldwin's claim during a televised interview that he had not pulled the trigger when the gun fired, Bash told the judge.

Law enforcement and prosecutors realized that the gun was potentially exculpatory, meaning Baldwin could use it to prove his innocence of the criminal charge, he said.

"And they destroyed it anyway," Bash said.

Bash also cited testimony Monday from the prosecution's firearms expert who said the FBI testing unnecessarily damaged the firearm.

Special prosecutor Erlinda Johnson responded that Baldwin's attorneys never asked to keep the gun intact during the FBI testing.

"What is important here is that these parts were damaged during a test that was done pursuant to standard procedure" by the FBI, Johnson said Monday.

Prosecutors offered video evidence showing that the gun operated properly while on the movie set, she said.

Baldwin's attorney failed to show that prosecutors intentionally deprived the defense of evidence that could potentially prove his innocence, she said.

On April 14, Marlowe Sommer sentenced "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed to the maximum 18 months in prison for her role in Hutchins' death. Jurors deliberated for less than three hours on March 6 before finding the 27-year-old armorer guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Baldwin also faces a maximum of 18 months in prison if a jury finds him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

An FBI weapons expert testified in Gutierrez Reed's trial that the revolver was fully functional when it arrived at the FBI laboratory.

FBI forensic examiner Bryce Ziegler testified that he struck the fully cocked gun with a mallet to determine if it would fire without a trigger pull. The test broke the weapon's trigger mechanism, causing it to fire, he said.

Special prosecutors Kari Morrisey and Jason Lewis dismissed an earlier involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin in April 2023 after they were told that the gun may have been modified before the shooting. Lewis has since left the case.

"If it is determined that the gun did not malfunction, charges against Mr. Baldwin will proceed," Morrisey and Lewis wrote in a June 2023 motion filed in the case of Gutierrez Reed.

Prosecutors last year hired Arizona firearms expert Lucien C. Haag to perform additional testing on the prop revolver.

In his report, Haag concluded that a trigger pull would have been required to fire the Italian-made Pietta pistol, a replica of the 1873 Colt .45 pistol that killed Hutchins.