By Andrew Hay
(Reuters) -“Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez on Friday waived her right to a preliminary hearing, allowing charges against her over the 2021 shooting death of the movie’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, to move toward a possible trial.
In a court filing, Gutierrez’s lawyer Jason Bowles waived the hearing set for Aug. 9-16 at which a judge was to decide whether there were grounds for a trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering in connection with Hutchins’ death.
“The standard for a preliminary hearing that prosecutors must meet is exceedingly low, as opposed to what they have to prove at trial,” Bowles said later in a statement. “We will test the state’s case through other New Mexico procedures.”
No trial date has been set.
Actor Alec Baldwin was rehearsing when he fired a live round that killed cinematographer Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. Gutierrez, a 25-year-old who was working as chief weapons handler on her second film, told police she mistook the round for a dummy when she loaded the handgun. Live rounds are not allowed on movie sets.
In January, Gutierrez declined to plead guilty to a charge of felony manslaughter in exchange for no jail time on grounds she was not given the same offer as first assistant director Dave Halls, who accepted a plea deal for a misdemeanor charge with no prison time, according to a person close to the talks.
Prosecutors Andrea Reeb and Mary Carmack-Altwies, who handled the case until March, declined to comment on plea bargains.
Prosecutor Kari Morrissey, who took over the case, said in a statement she expected the case to be set for trial in the future.
Prosecutors dismissed charges against Baldwin in April after they disclosed new evidence that the revolver’s hammer may have been modified and the weapon could have fired without the actor’s pulling the trigger. Baldwin has said he did not pull the trigger.
Morrissey said she may file new charges against Baldwin should results of a new test of the revolver, which had been expected this week, show it did not malfunction.
For now, Gutierrez is the only person charged for the shooting.
Key to her prosecution is where live bullets came from, who brought them on set and whether Gutierrez knew they were present.
Prosecutors said Gutierrez may have brought live rounds on set, but they have yet to present evidence.
Under New Mexico law, to convict Gutierrez of involuntary manslaughter prosecutors must prove she showed willful disregard for firearms safety.
Prosecutors have also accused Gutierrez of evidence tampering for allegedly handing off cocaine to someone to avoid police finding it following the 2021 shooting. Bowles said that accusation lacked corroboration or evidence.
(Reporting By Andrew Hay; editing by Donna Bryson and Andrew Heavens)