Alec Baldwin, other ‘Rust’ filmmakers could face ‘huge legal fallout’ experts say

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Actor Alec Baldwin, who pulled the trigger on a gun during the filming of “Rust” in New Mexico and inadvertently killed a cinematographer and injured a director, is unlikely to be held criminally or civilly responsible for the tragedy.

But producer Alec Baldwin may be joining several others in leadership positions for Western.

Experts predict a huge legal fallout from the tragedy, determined in civil lawsuits and potentially in criminal charges. In addition to Baldwin, a recording sheet for the day of filming, which The Associated Press has received, shows five producers, four executive producers, a line producer and a co-producer. They, as well as assistant director Dave Halls and armor master Hannah Gutierrez, could all face some form of responsibility, even if they were not present on Thursday.

The payouts – which can in part be covered by insurance with the production company Rust Movie Productions – are likely to be in the “millions and millions” of dollars.

“There was clearly negligence on the set,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and a weapons policy expert. “The producers had a duty to maintain the safety of the crew. There were obvious dangers on the set. “

Santa Fe-based district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told the AP on Tuesday that the investigation is still in its initial stages and her office was far from making any decisions on whether to prosecute. She added that those involved in the production collaborated with law enforcement.

There are “a lot of people involved and a lot of moving parts,” the first-time prosecutor said of the circumstances surrounding the shooting of the footage for “Rust.”

Authorities said Friday that Halls, the deputy director, had handed over the weapon to Baldwin and announced “cold gun”, indicating that it was safe to use. But it was filled with live rounds. Film photographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot and director Joel Souza, who was behind her, was injured.

Baldwin, known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live”, has described the killing as a “tragic accident”.

Investigators said Wednesday that there was “some complacency” in how weapons were handled on the film set, where Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed a film photographer and injured another person, but it is too early to determine if there will be filed indictment.

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The production of “Rust” has been marked by disputes from the start in early October and involved seven crew members leaving the set a few hours before filming. Los Angeles Times, referring to two crew members whom it did not name, reported that five days before the shooting, Baldwin’s stunt double fired two shots directly after being told the gun had no ammunition.

The alarm over the misfires told a crew member to a unit production manager in a text message: “We have now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” according to a copy of the message that the newspaper has reviewed.

Winkler called the previous misfires – and an apparent lack of action after them – “a recipe for a very significant liability.”

“You can not have a dangerous situation, know about it and then do nothing,” he said.

Rust Movie Productions, the production company, says it is collaborating with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation.

“Although we were not made aware of any official complaints regarding gun or prop security on the set, we will conduct an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down,” Rust Movie Productions said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

Though New Mexico law defines involuntary manslaughter partly as a lawful act that resulted in death due to “an illegal manner or without due care and consideration,” defense attorney Nina Marino said she doubts any criminal case would be brought.

“If a local agency in New Mexico were to go ahead with criminal charges, it would have a really cooling effect on further recordings taking place in New Mexico, and I think New Mexico appreciates the business,” Marino said. who specializes in white. collar cases as co-founder of Kaplan Marino law firm.

Every movie requires insurance coverage, and any policy for a western will hit the use of horses, other animals, and firearms. The call slip alone for Thursday mentions more weapons, more horses and a daily snake fighter.

An insurance company is likely to cover any adverse events, but the company may not pay for negligence claims on a film set, according to Julie Shapiro, law professor and director of Loyola Law School’s Entertainment and Media Law Institute.

The insurance company will conduct its own investigation, Shapiro said, to determine if negligence has occurred. The exact wording of the policy will determine what the company will pay.

While Baldwin, the other producers, the assistant director and the armor man can be mentioned as parties to a civil lawsuit, not everyone can be held responsible – especially if they played no part in the safety aspects of the production or only had a vanity credit. The applicants would probably go for the deeper pockets of the production company.

“How much? To what extent will the insurance cover it? This is a loss of life – there is no dollar amount you can place,” Shapiro said.

Deaths on the spot has led to security reforms in the past. But Jeff Harris – founding partner of Harris Lowry Manton LLP and the lead lawyer in two high-profile lawsuits involving accidental deaths on television and film, including stuntman John Bernecker on “The Walking Dead” and camera assistant Sarah Jones on “Midnight Rider” – said incidents like these are rare if the cast and crew follow rules that are standard for the use of firearms in the film industry.

“They’re not complicated,” Harris said. “They have been around for years. And it struck me – it does not happen if basic security policies are followed. The end.”

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