Baldwin, Hutchins Kin Settle `Rust' Lawsuit; Criminal Probe Continues

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Alec Baldwin and the family of the late cinematographer Halyna Hutchins have settled a wrongful death lawsuit surrounding Hutchins' fatal shooting on the set of the movie "Rust" nearly a year ago, it was announced Wednesday.

Under the settlement, the low-budget Western is slated to resume filming in January, with Hutchins' widower serving as executive producer.

However, the New Mexico prosecutor handling the case said the civil settlement will not be a factor in the ongoing criminal case, or on whether she might still might pursue charges over the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting in Santa Fe -- in which director Joel Souza was also wounded by a prop gun held by Baldwin that discharged a live round.

How live ammo wound up in a prop weapon that Baldwin has maintained was declared a "cold gun" by crew members remains one focus of the lengthy criminal probe by New Mexico authorities.

"While civil suits are settled privately and often involve financial awards, criminal cases deal only in facts," according to a statement from Santa Fe, New Mexico District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies' office. "If the facts and evidence warrant criminal charges under New Mexico law then charges will be brought. No one is above the law."

The DA's office also noted that the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office is still investigating the case.

Sheriff's spokesman Juan Ríos told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, "Once the case file is completed, reviewed by supervisors and approved for release, the sheriff's office will then forward the case to the district attorney. At this time I do not have a time frame as to when it will be forwarded to the DA."

Last month, Carmack-Altwies asked for and received more than $317,000 in additional funding from New Mexico's Board of Finance toward possible criminal charges against as many a four people, including Baldwin, in the case.

"One of the possible defendants is well-known movie actor Alec Baldwin," she wrote to the finance board on Aug. 30 in a letter that was reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

"If charges are warranted, the (1st Judicial District Attorney) anticipates prosecuting up to four individuals. My expenses for the `Rust' (case) will begin immediately and will be costly."

The DA's statements Wednesday came following a whirlwind of announcements earlier in the day regarding the civil elements of the matter.

First, Baldwin released a statement on Instagram saying, "We are pleased to announce today the settlement of the civil case filed on behalf of the family of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

"Throughout this difficult process, everyone has maintained the specific desire to do what is best for Halyna's son. We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the resolution of this tragic and painful situation."

Later, Hutchins' widower, Matthew Hutchins, released a statement through his attorney, Brian Panish, confirming the settlement agreement and announcing that the long-paused "Rust" project will resume production with Matthew Hutchins serving an executive producer.

Matthew Hutchins' executive-producer role was one element of the settlement, but other details were not released.

"The filming of `Rust,' which I will now executive produce, will resume with all the original principal players on board, in January 2023," Hutchins' statement said.

"I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin). All of us believe Halyna's death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna's final work."

Meanwhile, Souza on Wednesday confirmed through a public-relations firm that he will return as "Rust" director.

"In my own attempts to heal, any decision to return to finish directing the film could only make sense for me if it was done with the involvement of Matt and the Hutchins family," Souza's statement said.

"Though certainly bittersweet, I am pleased that together, we will now complete what Halyna and I started. My every effort on this film will be devoted to honoring Halyna's legacy and making her proud. It is a privilege to see this through on her behalf."

In February, attorney Aaron Dyer, who represents Baldwin and other "Rust" producers, issued a statement saying, "Everyone's hearts and thoughts remain with Halyna's family as they continue to process this unspeakable tragedy. We continue to cooperate with the authorities to determine how live ammunition arrived on the `Rust' set in the first place.

"Any claim that Alec was reckless is entirely false. He, Halyna and the rest of the crew relied on the statement by the two professionals responsible for checking the gun that it was a `cold gun' -- meaning there is no possibility of a discharge, blank or otherwise.

"This protocol has worked on thousands of films, with millions of discharges, as there has never before been an incident on a set where an actual bullet harmed anyone.  Actors should be able to rely on armorers and prop department professionals, as well as assistant directors, rather than deciding on their own when a gun is safe to use."

Wednesday's settlement announcement does not end all civil cases surrounding the case, however.

Earlier this month,  a Los Angeles judge dismissed two causes of action against some "Rust" producers in a lawsuit by a script supervisor who was standing next to Hutchins when she was shot.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Whitaker finalized the tentative ruling he had issued earlier -- tossing plaintiff Mamie Mitchell's claims for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against defendants Rust Movie Productions LLC, Thomasville Pictures LLC, Ryan Smith and Langley Cheney.

The judge said that although he found Mitchell's allegations against Baldwin to be "legally sufficient" with respect to those causes of action, the plaintiff's lawyers are obligated under New Mexico law to show the four defendants knew that Baldwin was going to point and fire the loaded weapon towards Mitchell and provided the actor "either substantial assistance or encouragement" to do so.

"While (Mitchell) alleges that (the producers) assisted Baldwin by supplying the loaded weapon, (Mitchell's) allegations fail to establish that (the producers) knew Baldwin would aim and fire the loaded weapon towards (Mitchell) such that they would be jointly liable for his intentional conduct," Whitaker wrote. "In fact, (Mitchell's) allegations would show the opposite to be true: the only person who knew Baldwin was going to fire the weapon was Baldwin."

Mitchell's original suit was filed last Nov. 17, alleging that she was "standing in the line of fire when the gun went off." She then filed amended suits on Feb. 8 and Aug. 3. The 64-year-old Baldwin is one of the defendants.

Hutchins, 42, was killed while Baldwin, himself a producer and a star of "Rust," was helping to prepare camera angles.

Baldwin fired a weapon which was supposed to contain only blank rounds but discharged a lead bullet that struck Hutchins in the chest then lodged in the shoulder of Souza.

Mitchell's suit alleges specific wrongdoing by Baldwin, claiming he fired the weapon during the rehearsal "even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of a firearm." The actor's lawyers are also seeking dismissal of the allegations against him in a hearing scheduled Nov. 1.

Shortly after the shooting, Baldwin told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he did not pull the trigger, saying he instead tugged the gun's hammer back and released it before the weapon discharged.

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