Alec Baldwin has been cleared of criminal charges for the shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust, for which he will serve 18 months in prison, along with a five-year increase for operating a firearm. However, Baldwin is now arguing that the increase that might prolong his sentence is a "basic legal error."
Lawyers for the 64-year-old actor argue that the version of the bill that allows for the enhancement did not go into effect until May 2022. The previous version provided for a three-year increase for brandishing a firearm in the course of a felony, but only in the instance of "intent to intimidate or injure a person."
Baldwin was charged on January 31, along with Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who is facing the same sentence. Gutierrez Reed is also planning to sue Baldwin.
According to Variety, the prosecution committed a fundamental legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a firearm-enhancement statute that did not exist at the time of the accident. According to Baldwin's lawyer Luke Nikas, the statute "could not apply to conduct that occurred before it was enacted."
The government's probable cause statement excludes any allegations that Mr. Baldwin acted 'with intent to intimidate or injure a person,' and its description of the alleged conduct confirms that the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was an accident.
On paper, it appears like a stretch that either Baldwin or Gutierrez Reed acted with intent to intimidate or injure, when in reality they were more likely to be found guilty of gross negligence. However, whether or not a judge will view it that way remains to be seen.
The family of Hutchins has issued a statement in response to the charges, stating that "no one is above the law."
Baldwin's first preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 24, within 60 days of his first appearance.