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What to know about the prison sentence for a movie armorer in a fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

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LA Post: What to know about the prison sentence for a movie armorer in a fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin
April 16, 2024
MORGAN LEE - AP

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A movie weapons armorer received the maximum sentence of 18 months in jail for involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin on a Western movie set, as authorities now turn their focus on prosecution of Baldwin himself.

A New Mexico judge on Monday found that Hannah Gutierrez-Reed's recklessness amounted to a serious violent offense, while noting few indications of genuine remorse from the defendant since her conviction in March. Prosecutors blame Gutierrez-Reed for unwittingly bringing live ammunition onto the set of “Rust,” where it was expressly prohibited, and for failing to follow basic gun-safety protocols .

Attention now turns to Baldwin's upcoming trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the October 2021 death of Halyna Hutchins at a movie ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe.

Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer of the film, was pointing a gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza. Baldwin has pleaded not guilty and says he pulled back the hammer — but not the trigger — and the gun fired.

Here are some things to know as the “Rust” case against Baldwin nears:

THE SENTENCE

Prosecutors on Monday described a “cascade of safety violations” on the movie set that only start with Gutierrez-Reed.

At sentencing, Gutierrez-Reed said she had tried to do her best on the set despite not having “proper time, resources and staffing," and that she was not the monster that people have made her out to be.

But Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said the maximum sentence was appropriate given Gutierrez-Reed’s recklessness. She said remorse was lacking and rejected a request by defense attorneys for leniency and a conditional discharge that would have avoided further jail time.

The judge ticked through a checklist of safety failures by Gutierrez-Reed, pointedly answering her own questions.

“Did she have enough time to load the weapon safely? Plenty,” the judge said. “Did you load the weapon? Yes — with dummies and a live round. Did she check what she was loading? No.”

HALYNA HUTCHINS REMEMBERED

Hutchins, who was 42 when she died, grew up on a remote Soviet military base and worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a promising movie-making career.

At the sentencing hearing, friends and family members described Hutchins as courageous, tenacious and compassionate.

Courtroom testimonials also included calls for justice and a punishment that would instill greater accountability for safety on film sets.

Ukrainian relatives of Hutchins are seeking damages in her death from Baldwin in connection with the shooting. Attorney Gloria Allred is representing Hutchins' parents and sister and says that the family supports the criminal prosecution of Baldwin.

“No one has ever come to me to apologize,” Hutchins' mother Olga Solovey said in a tearful video testimonial shown at the sentencing of Gutierrez-Reed.

The filming of “Rust” moved to Montana after Hutchins' death under an agreement with her husband, Matthew Hutchins, that made him an executive producer.

BALDWIN INDICTED

Prosecutors dismissed an earlier involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin after being told the gun he was holding might have been modified before the shooting and malfunctioned.

A new analysis of the gun opened the way for prosecutors to reboot the case. A grand jury indicted Baldwin on the same charge in January. The indictment alleges Baldwin caused Hutchins' death — either by negligence or “total disregard or indifference” for safety.

If he’s convicted, the charge carries a potential prison sentence of up to 18 months.

Defense attorneys for Baldwin are urging the judge to dismiss the grand jury indictment, accusing prosecutors of “unfairly stacking the deck” in grand jury proceedings that diverted attention away from exculpatory evidence and witnesses.

Special prosecutors deny those accusations and accuse Baldwin of “shameless” attempts to escape culpability, highlighting contradictions in Baldwin's statements to law enforcement, workplace safety regulators and the public in a televised interview.

An FBI expert testified at Gutierrez-Reed's trial that the revolver used by Baldwin was fully functional with safety features when it arrived at an FBI laboratory. The expert said he had to strike the fully cocked gun with a mallet and break it in order for it to fire without depressing the trigger.

CONVERSATIONS FROM JAIL

Defense attorney Jason Bowles said Gutierrez-Reed will appeal the judge's judgment and sentence against her.

Bowles said at sentencing that “there were multiple system failures by multiple people. Some of those people have come before the court. ... Some have yet to come before the court. At least one individual is going to be tried in July.”

Gutierrez-Reed was acquitted of an evidence tampering charge at trial, but still confronts another felony charge in separate proceedings on allegations she brought a gun into a bar in downtown Santa Fe.

At her sentencing, Gutierrez-Reed teared up as Hutchins’ agent, Craig Mizrahi, spoke about the cinematographer’s creativity and described her as a rising star in Hollywood.

But special prosecutor Kari Morrissey says she reviewed nearly 200 phone calls that Gutierrez-Reed had made from jail over the last month. She said she was hoping there would be a moment when the defendant would take responsibility for Hutchins' death or express genuine remorse but "that moment has never come.”

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