New Mexico prosecutors denied the claim that Alec Baldwin’s lawyers made on Thursday that state authorities had destroyed the firearm that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust.”
“The court, I don’t think is aware of this point, but I think I should tell the court that the firearm in this case … was destroyed by the state,” Alex Spiro, one of Baldwin’s lawyers, said during a hearing Thursday. “That’s obviously an issue and we’re going to need to see that firearm, or what’s left of it.”
Prosecutors didn’t respond to Spiro’s assertion during the hearing, but in a statement to CNBC said that Spiro’s claim is false.
“The gun Alec Baldwin used in the shooting that killed Halyna Hutchins has not been destroyed by the state. The gun is in evidence and is available for the defense to review,” said Heather Brewer, spokesperson for New Mexico’s First Judicial District Attorney’s office.
”The defense’s unexpected statement in the status hearing today that the gun had been destroyed by the state may be a reference to a statement in the FBI’s July 2022 firearms testing report that said damage was done to internal components of the gun during the FBI’s functionality testing. However, the gun still exists and can be used as evidence.”
Baldwin, star and producer of “Rust,” was holding the gun when it killed Hutchins. He has denied he pulled the trigger.
Lawyers for Baldwin and the film’s original armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, appeared virtually at the Thursday status hearing. The defendants are charged with two different types of involuntary manslaughter following the October 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Both counts carry a maximum possible sentence of 18 months in prison. A jury will decide which of the two counts, if any, to convict on.
The prosecution is already facing pressure for some mistakes it’s made since launching the criminal case just over a month ago. For example, the potential 18-month prison sentence is a lower penalty than Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were initially up against.
Special prosecutor Andrea Reeb had originally mischarged Baldwin with a firearm enhancement that would add five more years to his sentence if convicted. Reeb admitted in emails to Baldwin’s lawyers that she had incorrectly applied that enhancement, which was not in effect at the time of the shooting.
Baldwin’s lawyers filed a motion on Feb. 7 for Reeb to recuse herself from the case, which she rejected on Monday.
Reeb is simultaneously serving as special prosecutor on the “Rust” case while serving as a Republican state legislator. New Mexico’s constitution prohibits a member of one branch of government from exercising the power of another branch.
The DA’s office claimed in Monday’s court filings that because special prosecutors “do not fit squarely” within either the executive or judicial branch, the “logical conclusion” is that special prosecutors belong to neither branch. In their February motion, Baldwin’s lawyers had conversely argued that the power of prosecution cannot be neatly categorized as either executive or judicial because it falls into both branches.
A hearing on the disqualification motion will is scheduled for March 27.