Rust’s assistant director pleads guilty to gun charges

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

The plea makes Halls the first person to be held criminally responsible for Hutchins’ death. Actor Alec Baldwin and the independent film’s original gunsmith Hanna Gutierrez-Reed are both facing manslaughter charges over Hutchins’ death.

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

The New Mexico judge overseeing the “Rust” case sentenced Halls to six months of unsupervised probation, a $500 fine and 24 hours of community service.

The Halls are also required to complete a gun safety course and testify at upcoming Rust hearings or trials, according to New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer’s ruling. Halls had already approved the plea deal in January.

Preliminary hearings for Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are expected to begin in early May.

Notably, Friday’s hearing was the first to be conducted under the supervision of the case’s new special prosecutors, Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis.

To date, “Rust” proceedings have been routinely disrupted by complications in the appointment of the case’s former special prosecutor.

The first special prosecutor for the case, Andrea Reeb, resigned earlier this month after Baldwin’s defense attorneys filed a removal request.

Central to the motion to remove Reeb was their allegedly conflicting obligations: Reeb was appointed special prosecutor before being elected to the New Mexico legislature. Baldwin’s attorneys argued that the state’s constitution barred people from serving as prosecutors and legislators at the same time.

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

Complications only continued from there. On Monday, Mary Carmack-Altwies, the New Mexico prosecutor who oversaw the Rust case, received an order from Judge Marlowe Sommer: either withdraw from the case or lose your ability to appoint a new special attorney .

Carmack-Altwies withdrew on Wednesday. In their place, she appointed Morrissey and Lewis.

“My responsibility to the people of the First Circuit is greater than any individual case, which is why I have decided to appoint a special prosecutor in the Rust case,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement.

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