Prosecutor Behind ‘Rust’ Charges Steps Aside, Appointing Replacements

The district attorney who brought involuntary manslaughter charges against Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the “Rust” film set in New Mexico is stepping away from the case, her office announced Wednesday, as she named two new special prosecutors to handle the case.

The district attorney of Santa Fe County, Mary Carmack-Altwies, had been the face of the prosecution since the beginning. But in recent weeks the case has faced a couple of setbacks: Prosecutors downgraded the charges Mr. Baldwin faces after his lawyers noted that the law he was initially charged under was not passed until after the fatal shooting, and the special prosecutor who was originally named to help with the case, Andrea Reeb, decided to step down after her appointment was challenged in court.

The appointment of Ms. Reeb was initially challenged by lawyers for Mr. Baldwin, who argued that it violated the New Mexico Constitution for her to serve as a special prosecutor and a New Mexico legislator at the same time. (She was also an elected member of the state’s House of Representatives.)

A lawyer for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the original armorer on the film “Rust,” who was also charged with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal Oct. 21, 2021, shooting of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, then raised another issue.

The lawyer, Jason Bowles, argued that if Ms. Carmack-Altwies — who had said she needed help prosecuting such a high-profile case — wanted to appoint a new special prosecutor, the law required her to recuse herself from the case entirely. The judge hearing the case agreed, and Ms. Carmack-Altwies was left with the choice to either hire legal help and stay on the case or step back from it and let a new special prosecutor act.

She chose to step back, announcing on Wednesday that she would be appointing two New Mexico lawyers, Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis, as special prosecutors.

“My responsibility to the people of the First Judicial District is greater than any one case, which is why I have chosen to appoint a special prosecutor in the ‘Rust’ case,” Ms. Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis will unflinchingly pursue justice in the death of Halyna Hutchins.”

Now, the case will move forward without either of the prosecutors who made the decision to charge Mr. Baldwin and Ms. Gutierrez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter, and who reached a plea deal with Dave Halls, the movie’s first assistant director, who had oversight of safety on set.

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