15 April 2024

Rust armourer jailed after fatal film set shooting of cinematographer

15 April 2024

Armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after loading a gun for US actor Alec Baldwin, which fired and killed a cinematographer on the set of western film Rust.

Gutierrez-Reed was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter following the shooting of 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins in October 2021, at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer of the film, was pointing a gun at Ms Hutchins during a rehearsal when the weapon went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

The actor pleaded not guilty after he was re-charged with involuntary manslaughter in January this year, before lawyers filed to dismiss the charge – a motion of which is yet to be decided. He is currently scheduled to face a trial in July.

A jury convicted Gutierrez-Reed in March following a two-week trial, and on Monday she was sentenced to the maximum 18 months of “incarceration at a New Mexico women’s correctional facility”.

“The word remorse, a deep regret coming from a sense of guilt for past wrongs – that is not you,” Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said in her sentencing remarks.

“I find that what you did constitutes a serious violent offence, it was committed in a physically violent manner. A fatal gunshot done with your recklessness in the face of knowledge that your acts were reasonably likely to result in serious harm.

“You were the armourer, the one that stood between a safe weapon and a weapon that could kill someone. You alone turned a safe weapon into a lethal weapon.

“But for you, Ms Hutchins would be alive, a husband would have his partner and a little boy would have his mother.”

The sentence hearing came two weeks after the judge denied Gutierrez-Reed’s emergency request for a new trial and release from custody, where she was taken after the guilty verdict.

The court heard a host of emotional witness statements, including from Ms Hutchins’ mother Olga Solovey, father Anatolii Androsovych and sister Svetlana Zemko.

A video interview of Ms Solovey, who lives and works in Kyiv as a nurse caring for those wounded in the Ukrainian war, saw her relive the 3am call she received from Ms Hutchins’ husband Matthew, informing her of the death of her daughter in October 2021.

“The day of her death ruined my entire life…every minute I wait until I’ll meet her again,” she said of Ms Hutchins, who was hoping to have her own daughter following the birth of her son Andros.

While her former Marine officer father said it was indescribable to express the “soul-crushing pain that I live through every day”.

“The constant state of stress, the turmoil of my soul has drained my physical strength and caused an abrupt decline of my health with continued physical pain in my heart,” he said in a statement read to the court.

Rust director Souza also appeared on a video link to read a statement, telling the court: “I want the pain to go away, I want to be who I was before all this happened and above all, I want Halyna to be back home with her husband and son in the house she never got to live in.”

“The last two-and-a-half years are difficult to put into words,” Souza added.

“What it has done to me and the burden it has placed on me, both emotionally and physically are my private burdens and I think I’ll choose to keep them that way today.

“What I will say is one moment the world made sense, and the next moment it didn’t and it still doesn’t. And I don’t know if it ever will again.

“What I really want I can’t have, I want everyone damaged by Ms Gutierrez-Reed’s failures that day to find peace, I want this whole thing not to have been consumed by the world as some sick form of mass entertainment.”

Gutierrez-Reed, who appeared emotional at points during the hearing, took to the stand before her sentencing asking the judge for probation saying “I beg you, please don’t give me more time”.

“I am saddened by the way the media sensationalised our traumatic tragedy and portrayed me as a complete monster, which has actually been the total opposite of what has been in my heart,” she said.

“When I took on Rust, I was young and I was naive, but I took my job as seriously as I knew how to, despite not having proper time, resources and staffing. When things got tough, I just did my best to handle it.

“…The jury has found me in part at fault for this god awful tragedy, but that doesn’t make me a monster, that makes me human.”

Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey told the judge that Gutierrez-Reed had not expressed any genuine remorse or taken responsibility for the “cascade of safety violations” that led to Ms Hutchins’ death, instead choosing to “place blame” – including on the paramedics who tried to save her life.

During her sentencing remarks, Judge Sommer referred to a review of Gutierrez-Reed’s calls while she was incarcerated waiting to be sentenced.

“On the phone, she and another are talking about how much of Hannah’s life this could take up and that this is messing up her modelling career,” she told the court.

“And what does she say about the death of Halyna. Hannah is dismissive of the judge talking about someone dying as a result of her actions, Hannah says she’s looking at 13 months which is ridiculous over what happened.

“Hannah says that people have accidents and people die, it is an unfortunate part of life but it doesn’t mean she should be in jail.

“A conditional discharge is not appropriate and the second option of leaving you in the detention centre would be giving you a pass you do not deserve.”

Baldwin was initially charged in January 2023, but those charges were formally dismissed three months later.

Earlier in January 2024, special prosecutors brought the case before a grand jury in Santa Fe after receiving a new analysis of the gun, and Baldwin was re-charged.

The indictment accuses Baldwin of involuntary manslaughter through negligent use of a firearm, and an alternative charge of involuntary manslaughter “without due caution or circumspection”.

Baldwin previously said he pulled back the hammer, but not the trigger, and the gun fired.

Lawyers for Baldwin asked a judge to dismiss the charge, accusing prosecutors of “violating nearly every rule in the book” in acquiring the indictment, while prosecutors claimed the motion to dismiss was “predictable false, misleading, and histrionic misrepresentation of the facts”.

A judge is yet to give a ruling on the motion.

The filming of Rust resumed last year in Montana, under an agreement with the cinematographer’s widower Matthew Hutchins that made him an executive producer.

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