‘Rust’ prosecutor steps down after challenge from Alec Baldwin’s defense

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  • The New Mexico Special Attorney for the manslaughter of actor Alec Baldwin and his co-defendant has resigned.
  • Baldwin’s lawyers sought to disqualify prosecutor Andrea Reeb because of her position as a state legislator.
  • She had previously abandoned the so-called firearm improvement, which carried a five-year prison sentence, after admitting to Baldwin’s lawyers that she had misapplied the law.

The special prosecutor in Rust’s manslaughter v. actor Alec Baldwin resigned Tuesday after Baldwin’s lawyers said New Mexico’s constitution barred her from holding the position as a state legislator.

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It’s a major setback in the state’s case against Baldwin and co-defendant Hannah Gutierrez-Reid for the fatal October 2021 accidental shooting of cinematographer Galina Hutchins on the set of Rust.

“After much deliberation, I have made the difficult decision to step down as Special Counsel for the Rust case,” Special Counsel Andrea Rib said in a surprise statement. “My priority in this case — and in every case I have pursued in my 25-year career — has been justice for the victim.”

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“However, it has become clear that the best way to ensure justice in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on evidence and facts that clearly show the complete disregard for basic security protocols that led to the crime. death of Galina Hutchins,” she said.

Reeb’s decision to recuse herself came after several weeks of resistance to the idea by her and First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Oltwis, who appointed her.

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“I won’t let questions about my work as a legislator and prosecutor overshadow the real issue,” Reeb said Tuesday.

Baldwin’s lawyers last month filed a petition asking the judge to remove Reeb from the case, arguing that New Mexico’s constitution expressly forbids people from holding positions in one branch of government while exercising the powers of another branch. On March 6, Reeb and the district attorney filed a motion to dismiss this argument.

Luke Nikas, one of Baldwin’s lawyers who was contacted by CNBC on Tuesday, did not comment directly on Reeb’s recusal, but pointed to the rationale for his motion to disqualify Reeb, in which the defense argued that “there is no doubt that Reeb’s representative is violating both plain text and the purpose of the separation of powers provision in the New Mexico Constitution, acting simultaneously as legislator and prosecutor.”

It is not yet clear whether Carmack-Oltvis will take on the case or appoint a new special prosecutor. Prosecutors for the First Judicial Circuit did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

Baldwin, the star and producer of The Rust, and Gutierrez-Reed, the gunsmith from The Rust, are charged with two counts of manslaughter, both of which carry an 18-month prison sentence. The jury will decide which count of manslaughter applies.

Rust’s original assistant director David Halls signed a plea agreement to charges of negligent use of a deadly weapon, giving him a suspended sentence and six months’ probation.

Baldwin and other Rust producers are also at the center of a civil lawsuit filed by Hutchins’ mother, father and sister on Feb. 9. Filming will continue this spring.

Earlier releases

The prosecution has already been criticized for errors in prosecution and case management.

Reeb, who previously served as a district attorney in New Mexico’s Ninth Judicial District, initially charged Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed in January with so-called firearm improvement. This entailed a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years if the defendants were convicted.

But Reeb balked at that improvement after admitting to Baldwin’s lawyers via email that she had misapplied the law, which only took effect after Hutchins was killed.

And at a status hearing last week, Baldwin’s lawyers said the gun that killed Hutchins was destroyed in the course of the investigation. Prosecutors denied this claim, noting that the gun suffered some internal damage during the FBI’s initial investigation, but was still intact.

Along with Reeb, Carmack-Oltwis hired press secretary Heather Brewer, specifically dedicated to answering media inquiries about Rust. Brewer made provocative public comments, calling Baldwin a celebrity “with fancy lawyers”, which some lawyers found odd.

“Prosecutors have to walk a very fine line between what you can say in public,” said John Day, a local New Mexico lawyer. “You don’t want to be accused of poisoning a jury ahead of time. And that can certainly be a problem here.”

Credit: www.cnbc.com /

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