Both of actor Alec Baldwin’s prosecutors in the deadly “Rust” shooting have now resigned and been replaced in his manslaughter case.
Mere weeks after the resignation of the first special prosecutor, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies declared that she’s now stepping down, too. She tapped New Mexico-based attorneys Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis to take her place.
Carmack-Altwies said that her replacements have what it takes to prosecute Baldwin for his role in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot on the set of “Rust” on Oct. 21, 2021.
“My responsibility to the people of the First Judicial District is greater than any one case, which is why I have chosen to appoint a special prosecutor in the ‘Rust’ case,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis will unflinchingly pursue justice in the death of Halyna Hutchins on behalf of the people of First Judicial District.”
Baldwin said he thought the gun wasn’t loaded and denied pulling the trigger. Prosecutors say that FBI testing confirmed that the weapon couldn’t have fired if Baldwin didn’t deploy it. Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed now face involuntary manslaughter charges.
“Morrissey’s and Lewis’ extensive experience and trial expertise will allow the state to pursue justice for Halyna Hutchins and ensure that in New Mexico everyone is held accountable under the law,” the DA’s spokeswoman Heather Brewer said.
By stepping down from the “Rust” case, Carmack-Altwies can turn her attention to her district’s less storied public safety concerns.
“Carmack-Altwies will continue her record of prosecuting drunken drivers, collaborating with local law enforcement, increasing diversion efforts and securing convictions against the most dangerous and prolific offenders,” Brewer added.
In a virtual court hearing earlier this week, Carmack-Altwies complained about understaffing inside the district attorney’s office, which she revealed was “one-third vacant.”
“We are in dire straits,” Carmack-Altwies said. “I think all DAs around the state would agree with that. I think that the AG would agree with that as well.”
“We do not have the sufficient manpower to fully prosecute this by ourselves,” Carmack-Altwies added.
New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ruled that the state’s statutes do not allow her to appoint special prosecutors while pursuing the case herself.
It’s clear why prosecutors may want to have a clean slate. The DA’s office has suffered a string of defeats since charging Baldwin, who prevailed in his first two pretrial motions by default. Carmack-Altwies originally brought the case with now-former special prosecutor Andrea Reeb and charged it with a firearm enhancement carrying a possible five-year prison sentence. Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas called that an “elementary legal error” because the statute was amended after the “Rust” shooting, making its application unconstitutional. Prosecutors dropped the enhancement.
Then, Baldwin challenged Reeb’s status as a special prosecutor, noting that she’s now a GOP lawmaker in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Reeb resigned before the matter could be adjudicated. Prosecutors racked up another defeat after the judge let Gutierrez Reed keep a gun in her house. Reed’s attorneys argued that was necessary because of threats prosecutors failed to redact her personal information.
“Rust” assistant director David Halls has a plea hearing scheduled on Friday. Halls signed a plea agreement for a different charge: negligent use of a deadly weapon. Prosecutors haven’t yet released a copy of the plea deal, but they say it calls for him to serve a suspended sentence and six months of probation.
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