The actor’s lawyer said his decision to try Alec Baldwin in the death of Halyna Hutchins was “a dreadful judicial error”.
Both Baldwin and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, are charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of Miss Hutchins on the set of Rust in 2021.
The decision was announced Thursday in a written statement by New Mexico District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies.
“After thoroughly examining the laws and evidence of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the Rust film crew,” the statement said.
“No one is above the law under my watch, and everyone deserves justice.”
Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s attorney from Quinn Emanuel, said in response to the announcement: “This ruling distorts the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins and represents a gruesome fall in justice.
“Mr Baldwin had no reason to believe that there were live bullets in the gun or anywhere on the film set.
“Trusting the professionals he worked with, he assured me that the gun had no real bullets. We will fight these charges and we will win.”
It has been less than three months since the District Attorney’s Office received the police’s final report on the incident that killed Ms. Hutchins, following the firing of a propeller gun held by Baldwin.
Rust director Joel Souza was also injured by gunfire on the Bonanza Creek Ranch embankment near Santa Fe, Arizona.
Assistant director David Halls has signed a plea bargain on charges of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
The DA said no charges would be filed for Souza’s non-fatal shooting.
The DA’s office says Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “alternatively charged” with two counts of manslaughter, meaning that a jury will decide not only whether they are guilty but what definition of manslaughter they are.
The initial charge may be termed manslaughter and requires proof of underlying negligence.
This charge also includes a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, and this would likely compound as a matter of law.
The second charge is manslaughter during the commission of a legal act that requires proof that there was more to a death than simple negligence.
Under New Mexico law, both charges are punishable by a fourth-degree felony and up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 (£4,000) fine.
The second charge involves developing a firearm or additional mandatory punishment that punishes the crime with a mandatory five-year sentence.
“Halyna Hutchins would be alive today if any of these three people, Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, or David Halls had done their job. It’s that simple,” said special prosecutor Andrea Reeb.
“The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal negligence to safety on the Rust movie set.
“There’s no place in New Mexico for movie sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”
Ms. Carmack-Altwies and Ms. Reeb will formally file charges with the New Mexico First District Court of Appeals before the end of the month.
After charges are made, each defendant will be sent a subpoena with charge information and will soon be asked to appear in court for the first time – but this can also be done virtually.
After the initial hearing, the next step will be a preliminary hearing, where the District Attorney and special prosecutor will present their case to the judge and the judge will decide whether there is a possible reason to proceed with the trial.
Dates for the preliminary hearing are set by the court and are usually scheduled within 60 days of filing the charges.
“There is a very clear process to get justice in this case,” said Ms. Carmack-Altwies.
“We are committed to maintaining the integrity of this process to ensure equal justice before the law.”