'Rust' prosecutors drop charges against Alec Baldwin after questions over gun misfire

New Mexico prosecutors have dropped criminal charges against actor Alec Baldwin in the “Rust” shooting tragedy, a dramatic reversal that comes after numerous missteps by prosecutors, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

The stunning development comes after prosecutors received new information into the case — that the gun that Baldwin used had been modified before being delivered to the low-budget western in October 2021, the sources said.

The replica of the vintage weapon — a Colt 45 revolver — had been fitted with a new trigger, making it possible for it to misfire, as Baldwin has said, according to the sources.

Prosecutors are reserving the right to eventually charge Baldwin with a lesser charge, but they felt they needed time to investigate the new information to make sure that charges were even warranted, one of the sources said.

Baldwin has long maintained that he did not pull the trigger on the fateful day when cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot. The film’s director Joel Souza was also wounded.

The decision to drop the involuntary manslaughter charges comes just a few weeks after a new special prosecutor took over the case when the district attorney stepped down. The decision was made because the new special prosecutors were racing toward a May 3 deadline for a preliminary hearing to see whether prosecutors had sufficient evidence to go forward.

“We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin, and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,” Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, attorneys for Baldwin, said in a statement, which was first reported by ABC News..

Prosecutors declined to comment.

Baldwin, 65, was charged in late January with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the October 2021 shooting death of Hutchins. The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, was also charged.

But since the high-profile charges were announced by prosecutors in Santa Fe, the case against Baldwin has been crumbling due to a variety of problems with the investigation.

Two months ago, New Mexico prosecutors downgraded felony penalties against Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed, removing the threat that either could spend years in prison.

Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed were charged last month with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Oct. 21, 2021, shooting on the movie’s set south of Santa Fe.

Gutierrez Reed — who loaded the gun with a live bullet — is still facing the felony charges, the sources said.

The most serious charge included a “firearm enhancement” penalty that carried a maximum five years in prison, if convicted.

The “Rust” production was set to resume filming at Yellowstone Film Ranch in Montana on Thursday.

“The production will continue to utilize union crew members and will bar any use of working weapons and any form of ammunition,” said Melina Spadone, attorney for Rust Movie Productions. “ Live ammunition is — and always was — prohibited on set.”

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