LOS ANGELES (CNS) - One day before he was set to appear for arraignment in a New Mexico courtroom, Alec Baldwin pleaded not guilty through a court filing Thursday to involuntary manslaughter charges stemming from the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film "Rust."
Baldwin, 64, entered the plea in a two-page court document in which he also asked that he be permitted to waive his scheduled Friday appearance in court. Santa Fe First District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer approved the request.
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on "Rust," is also charged with involuntary manslaughter and is still scheduled to appear in a New Mexico courtroom Friday for arraignment.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were both charged last month with involuntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. Prosecutors said the pair were being charged "in the alternative," meaning it will be up to a jury to decide which level of involuntary manslaughter they allegedly committed in the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting.
Prosecutors originally included a firearm enhancement in the charge of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, but New Mexico First Judicial Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced Monday that the enhancement had been dropped. The enhancement could have opened Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed to a sentence of up to five years behind bars, but they now face a maximum of 18 months.
The decision came after Baldwin's attorneys filed a motion challenging the validity of the enhancement, saying it was not in effect at the time of the shooting, which occurred on the "Rust" film set outside Santa Fe.
A representative for Carmack-Altwies said the decision to drop the firearm enhancement was made "in order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys."
"The prosecution's priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys," Heather Brewer said in the statement.
Hutchins, 42, was fatally shot with a bullet discharged from a prop weapon wielded by Baldwin, who was holding the gun while helping to set camera angles for an upcoming scene. The bullet also struck and wounded film director Joel Souza.
Baldwin, who is also a producer on the film, has insisted he was told the gun was "cold," or contained no live rounds. He has also insisted that while he pulled back the hammer on the weapon, he never pulled the trigger.
Baldwin's attorney, Luke Nikas, previously called the charges "a terrible miscarriage of justice."
"Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun -- or anywhere on the movie set," Nikas said. "He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win."
Attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed have also denied that she did anything wrong, even suggesting at one point that others on the set tried to "sabotage" the production by mixing live rounds with blanks.
Attorneys Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion said in a joint statement Tuesday that the charges and probable-cause statement filed by prosecutors show that "the district attorney has completely misunderstood the facts and has reached the wrong conclusions."
"Hannah pleaded to provide more firearms training," they said. "She was denied and brushed aside. Hannah asked to be able to perform her armorer duties more for safety reasons. She was told by production to focus on props.
"Hannah asked (assistant director David) Halls if they could us a plastic gun for the rehearsal scene and he said no, wanting a `real gun.' Hannah asked to be called back into the church if Baldwin was going to use the gun at all and Halls failed to do that. Yet the district attorney has given Halls a six-month probation misdemeanor and charged Hannah and Baldwin with felony offenses carrying at least five years in prison.
"The tragedy of this is had Hannah just been called back into the church by Halls, she would have performed the inspection and prevented this tragedy. We will fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty."
Halls has pleaded no contest to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. That deal, which still needs judicial approval, calls for him to receive a suspended sentence and six months probation.
Sheriff's investigators determined that live ammunition was found on the "Rust" set, mixed with blanks that are traditionally used in film production.
Hutchins' death led to industry-wide calls for improvements in on-set safety, particularly in regard to the use of firearms.