In a recent legal development, a judge issued a ruling on Tuesday, demanding that Rust Movie Productions hand over crucial financial documents shedding light on actor Alec Baldwin’s stake in the movie. Prosecutors contend that this information may hold the key to understanding why Baldwin allegedly denied requests for additional firearm training by the film’s armorer.
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The ruling obliges Rust, the production company behind the movie, to provide records that could potentially unveil whether Alec Baldwin disregarded industry-wide safety standards on the film’s set in order to cut costs. The decision, issued on Tuesday, is seen as a potential precursor to the re-filing of charges against the film’s actor and producer.
Prosecutors are seeking documents that establish a connection between Rust Movie Productions, Alec Baldwin, and his production company, El Dorado Pictures. Their inquiry revolves around the possibility that Baldwin may have had a financial incentive to compromise on set safety, particularly concerning the use of firearms.
These records may play a pivotal role in the defense of Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering in the tragic shooting incident involving the movie’s cinematographer, during which a firearm Baldwin was holding discharged. Gutierrez-Reed contends that she was prevented from fulfilling her job adequately due to financial constraints imposed by the movie’s producers, who allegedly denied requests for additional firearm training.
In response to the judge’s ruling, Jason Bowles, Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney, issued a statement emphasizing the need for Rust Movie Productions to be more transparent with information. He questioned their motives, stating, “It begs the question, what are they hiding and why?” (Rust Movie Productions did not respond to requests for comment.)
Notably, charges against Alec Baldwin were dismissed in April, but prosecutors left the door open for their re-filing, pending the results of an investigation into whether the firearm involved in the incident was modified. A forensic expert report issued in September contradicted Baldwin’s account of the incident, as he has maintained that he did not pull the trigger of the gun.
Court documents reveal that the subpoena was initially issued to Rust Movie Productions in August, after Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer drew attention to aspects of the production that he argued were relevant to her case. He pointed to incidents where Gutierrez-Reed requested additional firearm training for Baldwin, which were denied, potentially violating industry-wide safety norms. These norms include intentionally discharging a firearm when it was unnecessary for the scene and accepting a firearm from the assistant director instead of the armorer, who is typically responsible for ensuring the weapon’s safety.
Rust Movie Productions strongly resisted the subpoena, characterizing it as a “phishing expedition” by prosecutors aimed at charging Baldwin. They argued that the requested materials are privileged and protected, containing trade secrets and confidential information.
However, on Tuesday, New Mexico Judge Mary Sommer denied the company’s motion to quash the subpoena. Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey underscored Baldwin’s role as a producer closely involved in the movie’s development, emphasizing that his financial interests in the production were pertinent to Gutierrez-Reed’s case. Morrissey contended that financial considerations could have influenced Baldwin’s decisions related to on-set safety, including the denial of additional firearm training.
According to prosecutors, Baldwin’s contracts may have stipulated that he receive a percentage of Rust’s profits, raising the possibility that financial gain played a role in Gutierrez-Reed’s inability to perform her duties as an armorer.
An investigation by a New Mexico safety agency in the past year revealed that Gutierrez-Reed was overburdened. Industry standards dictate that the armorer must be present whenever firearms are handled and have the authority to determine if additional safety training is necessary. However, Gutierrez-Reed was also expected to serve as a props assistant when firearms were not in use. The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau fined Rust Movie Productions $100,000 for “willful-serious” violations of safety measures, citing a text from line producer Gabrielle Pickle that there would be “no more” firearm training for Baldwin just days before the shooting.
Alec Baldwin is currently facing multiple lawsuits from Rust crew members over the shooting incident. In a lawsuit filed by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, a judge has allowed a claim of assault against Baldwin, asserting that he violated industry norms regarding the handling of firearms. The judge emphasized that industry-wide safety bulletins mandate that all firearms be treated as loaded and that Baldwin’s reliance on the assistant director’s alleged statement that the gun was “cold” did not absolve him of responsibility for failing to check the weapon himself.