The former weapons supervisor on the set of the movie ‘Rust’ won’t have to take a test for substance abuse as she confronts felony charges of evidence tampering and involuntary manslaughter in the on-set shooting death of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin.
A New Mexico district court judge on July 19 dismissed a request from prosecutors to test Hannah Gutierrez-Reed for illegal substances, calling it “an ambush” against her defence lawyers.
Prosecutors say Gutierrez-Reed passed contraband to another person to avoid legal consequences in the immediate aftermath of the fatal shooting in October 2021, while contending in court documents that the armourer was likely hung-over on the day a live bullet was placed into the gun Baldwin used.
Defence attorney Jason Bowles said the substance use allegations are unsubstantiated and undocumented.
It’s still unclear how several live rounds of ammunition got on set. Prosecutors say they have some evidence to support the theory that Gutierrez-Reed may be responsible for the introduction of the rounds.
Wednesday’s hearing, held online, was the first for a recently filed felony charge against Gutierrez-Reed of tampering with evidence in the shooting, which killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.
State District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer advised Gutierrez-Reed of her legal rights on the evidence-tampering charge, which carries a possible penalty of up to 18 months in prison. Gutierrez-Reed did not enter a plea.
An involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin was dropped in April. The actor was pointing a gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her. Baldwin has said the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to aim it toward Hutchins, who was behind the camera.
Evidentiary hearings may take place as soon as August to determine whether the case against Gutierrez-Reed advances toward trial.
Additionally, Gutierrez-Reed still has access to guns as a self-defence measure against threats — something prosecutors raised as a concern during the online court hearing.
“We have a person who is a substance user who is in possession of firearms,” said special prosecutor Kari Morrissey.
Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers say prosecutors are resorting to “character assassination” to prop up their involuntary manslaughter case.
The filming of ‘Rust’ resumed in April in Montana under an agreement with the cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, that makes him an executive producer. Souza says he returned to directing ‘Rust’ to honour the legacy of Halyna Hutchins.