Prosecutors dropped a firearms enhancement that would have established a minimum sentence of five years.
United States actor Alec Baldwin will not face the possibility of enhanced sentencing in a case where he is accused of fatal shooting cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust, reducing the amount of potential prison time he could face.
According to a court filing made public on Monday, prosecutors have dropped the possibility of exercising a firearms-enhancement law that would have set the minimum sentence for a guilty verdict at five years.
Baldwin’s lawyers had argued that using the enhancement would be unconstitutional.
“The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr Baldwin under a version of the firearm-enhancement statute that did not exist on the date of the accident,” they said in an earlier filing.
Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the weapons supervisor on the set of the film, were charged with involuntary manslaughter near the end of January.
New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who filed the charges, removed the firearms enhancement last Friday, lowering the potential sentence from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 18 months.
Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney, said in a statement that the enhancement had been dropped “to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr Baldwin and his attorneys”.
Hutchins died shortly after being wounded during rehearsals on the film’s ranch set on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 21, 2021. Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza.
Baldwin has denied wrongdoing and said that he did not pull the trigger. An analysis from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that the gun was functioning normally and would not have gone off unless the trigger was pulled.
“Mr Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” Baldwin’s lawyers said in a previous statement in January when charges were forthcoming. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked.”