They filed a motion in the “Rust” case asserting that prosecutors had applied a new version of a firearms statute that did not exist when the fatal shooting occurred.
Lawyers for Alec Baldwin argued in a court filing on Friday that prosecutors had incorrectly charged the actor under a version of a New Mexico firearm law that was passed months after he had fatally shot the cinematographer on the “Rust” film set in 2021.
The law in question includes a firearm enhancement that carries a minimum prison sentence of five years. In their filing, Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers argue that the version of the law prosecutors appear to be using — based on their legal filings and public statements — is one that was not passed until 2022.
Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers asked the judge to prevent the firearm enhancement from being used, meaning that if Mr. Baldwin were convicted, he could be sentenced to only up to 18 months in prison.
“The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a version of the firearm enhancement statute that did not exist on the date of the accident,” Luke Nikas, one of his lawyers, wrote.
In a statement, Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, said the motion was an “attempt to distract from the gross negligence and complete disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set that led to Halyna Hutchins’s death.”
“The special prosecutor’s focus will always remain on ensuring that justice is served and that everyone — even celebrities with fancy attorneys — is held accountable under the law,” the statement said.
Mr. Baldwin, who was holding the gun that discharged and killed Ms. Hutchins, was charged last month with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the alternative, meaning a jury would be asked to decide which charge, if any, applied.
A lawyer for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on “Rust” who was charged with the same counts of involuntary manslaughter, filed a similar objection to the firearm enhancement on Friday. In his motion, the lawyer, Jason Bowles, noted that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed was not holding the firearm when it discharged, arguing that the conduct she is accused of does not fit the language of the statute.
A third person, the film’s first assistant director, Dave Halls, who was the safety coordinator on set, had agreed with prosecutors to a plea deal on a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
The filing regarding the firearm enhancement is the latest response by Mr. Baldwin’s legal team. This past week, his lawyers filed a motion seeking to disqualify Andrea Reeb, a special prosecutor appointed to the case, arguing that her role violates the New Mexico Constitution because she is also a member of the state’s House of Representatives.
KOAT-TV, an ABC affiliate in New Mexico, reported that Mr. Halls’s lawyer, Lisa Torraco, had made a $250 donation in September to Ms. Reeb, who in August had been appointed by the district attorney as special prosecutor.
At that time, Ms. Reeb was also seeking election to the state’s House of Representatives; she has since joined the Legislature as a Republican.
Ms. Torraco told the TV station that she did not think her donation had affected the investigation and that she had given to other conservative candidates in the past.
In an email, Ms. Torraco said she had made the donation in the expectation that Ms. Reeb would step down as prosecutor if she won the election, which she said Ms. Reeb should now do.
“A special prosecutor should be completely independent from the district attorney,” she said, adding, “You can imagine my surprise as she continues as special prosecutor.”
Ms. Brewer said in a statement that Ms. Reeb “could never be compromised by a $250 political contribution — or a contribution of any amount.”
The debate over the firearm enhancement that was raised by Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers hinges on the exact wording of the law, which was changed last year.
Steve Aarons, a veteran defense lawyer in New Mexico, said it was well-established that the existing statute on the date of an incident for which someone was being charged must be the one applied in legal proceedings.
The version on the New Mexico books when Ms. Hutchins was killed says the firearm enhancement applies when a weapon is “brandished” in the commission of a noncapital felony. The newer version imposes a minimum five-year sentence if a firearm was “discharged” in the commission of a noncapital felony.
According to the law’s definition of “brandished,” the action must be done “with intent to intimidate or injure a person.” Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers argued in their filing that prosecutors had not made those claims in their case against their client.
In the statement of probable cause, the prosecutors did not accuse Mr. Baldwin of intending to injure or intimidate Ms. Hutchins; rather, they built a case that he had behaved negligently, making a series of breaches in film safety standards and practices that “directly caused the fatal shooting.”
Ms. Brewer noted that the charging documents filed by prosecutors had not mentioned a specific penalty, referring only to the statute itself.
Ms. Hutchins was killed while the crew was setting up a tight shot of Mr. Baldwin drawing an old-fashioned revolver from his holster ahead of a gunfight. Her death resulted in several lawsuits against Mr. Baldwin and Ms. Gutierrez-Reed, as well as other producers and crew members, including one this past week from Ms. Hutchins’s parents and sister.
Mr. Baldwin has maintained he is not responsible, saying that he did not pull the trigger and that he was told the gun was “cold,” meaning it should have contained no live rounds. Ms. Gutierrez-Reed also denies any wrongdoing.
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer will be asked to decide whether there is probable cause to move forward with the charges after a preliminary hearing in which both the prosecution and defense can present evidence and call witnesses.
Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers are urging Judge Sommer to throw out the firearm enhancement before that hearing, arguing that the prosecution’s public statement saying Mr. Baldwin could face years in prison was unfair.
“Their public statements could potentially taint a jury pool,” the filing stated.
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