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‘Rust’ assistant director gets suspended jail sentence for lesser charge in Alec Baldwin manslaughter case

Alec Baldwin composite featuring, clockwise from left: a still image of the actor in costume, an image of a smiling Halyna Hutchins, and an aerial shot of the set of the movie "Rust."

Alec Baldwin stands accused of the involuntary manslaughter of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins (top right) on the set of “Rust” (bottom right).

Former “Rust” assistant director David Halls received a suspended jail sentence after pleading no contest to a lesser charge on Friday, closing the first docket to date in the fatal shooting that lead to manslaughter charges against the film’s star, actor Alec Baldwin.

Following his plea for unsafe handling of a deadly weapon, Halls received a 6-month sentence, which Judge Mary Marlowe Summer immediately suspended for a sentence of “unsupervised probation.”

Halls’s attorney Lisa Torraco noted that her client’s plea isn’t “guilty,” only an acknowledgment that the state could persuade a jury that he is.

“He can’t control how other people handle firearms,” Torraco said, adding that her client is wracked with “survivor’s guilt.”

Calling Halls “extremely traumatized,” Torraco asked for a deferred sentence to allow her client to move on with his life. Halls would open himself to cooperating with the state or the defendants, she said. The judge formalized that offer in a requirement that he testify truthfully in all hearings and trials involving his co-defendants.

Halls must also pay a $500 fine and complete a firearm safety course.

Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed still face prosecution over their alleged roles in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot on the set of “Rust” on Oct. 21, 2021.

Baldwin claimed that 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.

Friday’s hearing marked the first time the state of New Mexico’s case has been led by newly minted special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis.

Asked for the facts supporting the plea, Morrissey noted that Halls served as the safety coordinator on the set of the movie “Rust,” a job for which he had decades of experience.

Before the tragedy, Morrissey noted, a camera crew walked off the set for safety issues and other reasons.

Halls checked it, confirmed that it was empty and unloaded, and handed it back to Gutierrez-Reed, who loaded it with what people believed to have been “dummy rounds,” according to Morrissey.

Morrissey said that Halls was entrusted to check and confirm that the gun was only loaded with “dummy” rather than “live” rounds, but that he did not.

The hearing, which was streamed on the New Mexico judiciary’s YouTube page, is accessible here.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."