A New Mexico judge told attorneys to “stay the course” on charges including involuntary manslaughter against a movie weapons supervisor in the 2021 shooting death of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal for the film Rust, rejecting on Tuesday (overnight in Australia) a request from defence counsel to dismiss charges.
The online ruling from Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer sets the stage for lengthy evidentiary hearings, starting next week, on manslaughter and evidence-tampering charges against movie armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. She is the sole remaining defendant in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during the filming of Rust on October 21, 2021.
In April, prosecutors dropped charges against Baldwin, who was pointing a gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her and injuring director Joel Souza. This left Gutierrez-Reed as the sole remaining defendant in the case. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison.
An attorney for Gutierrez-Reed argued unsuccessfully on Tuesday (overnight in Australia) that the case had been compromised by changes in the prosecution team earlier this year, sloppiness with evidence and public statements by prosecutors that might interfere with the right to an impartial jury.
Sommer rejected the arguments and sided with prosecutors, who urged the court to move forward with a preliminary hearing that will decide whether evidence is sufficient to advance toward trial.
Separately, prosecutors withdrew a motion to shield the name of a witness from public disclosure as they pursue an evidence-tampering charge.
They said on Tuesday (overnight in Australia) that a witness is prepared to testify that Gutierrez-Reed handed off a small bag of narcotics to the witness after returning from an interview at a police station. But they said the person worries about being harassed by media and blacklisted in the entertainment industry.
Defence attorney Jason Bowles has called the evidence-tampering charge a vindictive attempt at “character assassination” by prosecutors.
In March of this year, Rust safety coordinator and assistant director David Halls pleaded no contest to a charge of unsafe handling of a firearm and received a suspended sentence of six months’ probation.
He agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the fatal shooting and is listed as a possible witness in evidentiary hearings next week to decide whether the case can advance toward trial.
The filming of Rust resumed in April in Montana under an agreement with the cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, that makes him an executive producer.
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