‘Rust’ assistant director pleads guilty to gun possession

An image of cinematographer Halina Hutchins, who died after Alec Baldwin was shot while filming his film Rust, is displayed at a vigil in her honor in Albuquerque, NM, October 23, 2021.

Kevin Mohat | Reuters

David Halls, the Rust assistant director who handled the gun that killed cinematographer Galina Hutchins in 2021, pleaded no contest on Friday to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

The statement makes Halls the first person to be prosecuted for Hutchins’ death. Actor Alec Baldwin and independent film gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reid are charged with the manslaughter of Hutchins.

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry an 18-month prison sentence.

The New Mexico judge who heard the Rust case sentenced Hall to six months of unsupervised probation, a $500 fine, and 24 hours of community service.

Halls will also be required to complete a firearms safety course and testify at upcoming rust hearings or trials, according to a ruling by New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer. Halls previously agreed to a plea deal in January.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Rida’s preliminary hearings are expected to begin in early May.

Notably, Friday’s hearing was the first to be overseen by new special prosecutors in the case of Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis.

So far, the Rust case has been regularly interrupted by complications related to the appointment of a previous special prosecutor in the case.

The first special prosecutor in the case, Andrea Reeb, resigned earlier this month after Baldwin’s lawyers filed a petition asking for its removal.

Reeb’s allegedly conflicting commitments were at the heart of Reeb’s removal request: Reeb was appointed special prosecutor before she was elected to the New Mexico legislature. Baldwin’s lawyers argued that the state constitution did not allow people to serve as prosecutor and legislator at the same time.

Although Reeb and the DA’s office initially denied the motion, Reeb’s decision to resign was followed by New York Times report in which Reeb suggested in a June 2022 email that working on the case could help her political career.

The complications just continued from there. On Monday, Mary Carmack-Oltvis, the New Mexico District Attorney who oversaw the Rust case, received a directive from Judge Marlow Sommer: either withdraw from the case or lose the ability to appoint a new special prosecutor.

On Wednesday, Carmack-Oltvis recused herself. In her place, she appointed Morrissey and Lewis.

“My responsibility to the people of the First Judicial District is greater than any single case, which is why I have decided to appoint a special counsel for the Rust case,” Carmack-Oltwis said in a statement.

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