Baldwin says 'Rust' prosecutor made 'elementary legal error'

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Alec Baldwin said Friday prosecutors who have charged him over the death of a cinematographer who was shot on a film set have made an "elementary legal error."

The US actor was holding a Colt .45 during rehearsals for low-budget Western "Rust" in October 2021 when it discharged, killing Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

"The prosecutors in this case have committed an unconstitutional and elementary legal error by charging Mr Baldwin under a statute that did not exist on the date of the accident," his legal team wrote.

New Mexico prosecutors have said they believe the death of 42-year-old Hutchins was an accident, but insist Baldwin and the movie's armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed are culpable for involuntary manslaughter.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 22, 2021, US actor Alec Baldwin attends DreamWorks Animation's "The Boss Baby: Family Business" premiere at SVA Theatre in New York City. - The parents and sister of the cinematographer who was shot dead on the set of a low-budget western are suing star Alec Baldwin and the movie's producers, lawyers said February 9, 2023. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)

Both face up to 18 months in jail if convicted, with the more serious of two possible charges also including an additional five years' prison sentence because of a so-called firearm enhancement --- an additional punishment due to a gun being involved.

But in court documents filed in New Mexico on Friday, Baldwin's lawyers said this enhancement was not on New Mexico's books at the time of the incident.

The filing says there was a firearm enhancement law in October 2021, but it required that the weapon be "brandished" -- displayed in a deliberately intimidating fashion.

"The government's statement of probable cause contains no allegation that Mr. Baldwin acted 'with intent to intimidate or injure a person,' and its description of the alleged conduct makes clear that the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was an accident," the court documents say.

The filing requests that the enhancement be thrown out.

Lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed said they would be filing a similar application on behalf of their client, Variety reported.

A hearing for both defendants is scheduled for February 24, although neither is expected to appear in person.

Assistant director Dave Halls, who handed Baldwin the weapon and told him it was "cold" -- industry speak for safe -- has agreed to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon.

He will serve a suspended sentence and six months of probation, prosecutors have said.

As well as criminal charges, Baldwin faces civil proceedings, including from Hutchins' parents and sister, all of whom live in Ukraine.

A lawsuit was lodged on their behalf in Los Angeles on Thursday, seeking unspecified damages from the "30 Rock" star, as well as from a host of others involved in the film.

Baldwin, 64, and other producers of "Rust" have already reached a financial settlement with Hutchins' widower Matthew.