Alec Baldwin attorneys seek to reduce possible penalty

Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home, as he will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust”, in New York, January 31, 2023.

David Dee Delgado | Reuters

Alec Baldwin’s attorneys filed a motion Friday arguing New Mexico prosecutors have wrongly charged the actor under a statue that doesn’t apply to his case — and which carries a mandatory five-year jail sentence.

Baldwin was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter late last month for the Oct. 2021 fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, one of which is more serious and includes a firearm enhancement that would carry the mandatory jail sentence. If the case ends up going to trial, jurors would have to decide which involuntary manslaughter charge Baldwin is guilty of, if either. 

In a motion filed in Santa Fe’s First Judicial District, Baldwin’s attorneys argue that specific enhancement doesn’t apply to Baldwin because the statute was changed in May 2022, seven months after the incident. 

“The prosecutors in this case have committed an unconstitutional and elementary legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a statute that did not exist on the date of the accident,” Baldwin’s attorneys wrote in the motion. 

At the time of the incident, New Mexico’s firearm-enhancement statute was applied to cases where a gun was “brandished” in the commission of a non-capital felony, defining brandished as displaying a firearm “with intent to intimidate or injure a person.” 

The statute was later amended by the New Mexico legislature to remove any mention that a gun must be brandished, the court filing states. 

Baldwin’s attorneys argue the new version of the statute cannot apply to conduct that occurred before it was enacted and called retroactively applying the enhancement “flagrantly unconstitutional.” 

“The government’s statement of probable cause contains no allegation that Mr. Baldwin acted ‘with intent to intimidate or injure a person,’ and its description of the alleged conduct makes clear that the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was an accident,” the filing states. 

“Application of the current version of the statute would be unconstitutionally retroactive, and the government has no legitimate basis to charge Mr. Baldwin under the version of the statute that existed at the time of the accident.” 

In response, Heather Brewer, the spokesperson for the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney, said the motion was nothing but an attempt to distract “from the gross negligence and complete disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set that led to Halyna Hutchins’ death.”

“In accordance with good legal practice, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor will review all motions–even those given to the media before being served to the DA,” said Brewer. 

“However, the DA’s and 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.”

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