‘Rust’ production company denies liability for death of Halyna Hutchins at Alec Baldwin’s hand

As the one-year mark of the death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Alec Baldwin film “Rust” draws near, responsibility for the cinematographer’s homicide remained in question Tuesday as the production company now argues against liability.

Since Oct. 21, 2021, when initial reports of Baldwin brandishing the firearm meant to be loaded with dummy ammunition alleged he pulled the trigger fatally wounding Hutchins, attributing blame has been embroiled in legal disputes. Tuesday, according to court filings obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Rust Movie Productions (RMP) further added to the finger-pointing in an attempt to shift culpability to hired armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed.

The filing alleged she was “singularly responsible for all tasks associated with the use of firearms and ammunition,” including “ensuring that RMP’s express prohibition against the presence of live ammunition was strictly followed, ensuring that only blanks were used when called for by the script, and that only dummy rounds were used,” as they attempted to appeal the maximum allowable fine of $136,793 as handed down by New Mexico’s Environmental Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau.

Recently Baldwin had also asserted that the armorer was partially responsible along with assistant director Dave Halls who ultimately handed the actor the loaded gun before Hutchins was shot dead and director Joel Souza was wounded.

“There are two people who didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” Baldwin said in an interview with CNN. “I’m not sitting there saying I want them to, you know, go to prison, or I want their lives to be hell. I don’t want that, but I want everybody to know that those are the two people that are responsible for what happened.”

The productions court filing went on to state, “The crew contracted by RMP were independent contractors. Where applicable, the head of each independent contractor was responsible for the individuals within his or her department (e.g., special effects, stunts, or animal wranglers).”

RMP relied upon Reed to “perform and supervise all functions related to the use of firearms including, but not limited to, providing safety training, obtaining and using blank and dummy rounds, armament selection, and supervising the Property Master, Ms. [Sarah Zachary].”

A representative from Reed had already argued, “The New Mexico Environmental Department’s (OSHA) new complaint highlights serious failures by Production on the Rust set which would have prevented this tragic shooting. The new filing demonstrates various productions members’ attempts from the very beginning to shirk responsibility and scapegoat Hannah, a 24-year-old armorer, for this tragedy.”

“Hannah was tasked with doing two jobs including props assistant and the very important job as armorer but not given adequate time and training days to do so despite repeated requests or the respect required of the armorer’s position and responsibilities,” the statement went on before adding, “This included Baldwin in particular who ignored Hannah’s requests to do specific cross draw training which would include never having his finger on the trigger during the cross draw and never pointing the weapon at anyone…[and] neither Baldwin nor Halls nor anyone else in production called Hannah into the Church to perform her armorer duties and complete a final safety check before the fatal shooting, which also would have prevented this terrible tragedy.”

Reed’s attorney Jason Bowles further stated to The Hollywood Reporter following RMP’s attempt to distance itself from liability that his client “was an employee of Rust Production, in reality and under prevailing legal standards,” not an independent contractor as the appeal suggested.

“Production did not ensure Hannah had appropriate time to train actors. Hannah fought for more training days. She was not given the support necessary to ensure that everyone was properly instructed and trained. OSHA performed an exhaustive analysis and investigation and its conclusion that Production had several safety failures are beyond sound,” Bowles added.

According to Fox News, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza updated the progress of potential charges being filed in the death of Hutchins in a statement that explained, “The District Attorney’s office has been working with Suffolk County PD, and Baldwin’s lawyer to acquire the phone records. Once Suffolk County PD completes its agency assist and sends those records to New Mexico law enforcement, our detectives will need to then thoroughly review those phone records for evidentiary purposes.”

Following an official review, the case is expected to be sent to the district attorney who will ultimately be responsible for any charging decision.

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