The prosecutor in the “Rust” case says there is “substantial” evidence that armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed unwittingly brought live bullets on the set, leading to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
In a court filing on Monday, prosecutor Kari Morrissey argued that several photos taken on set — including ones taken by Gutierrez Reed — show the live rounds in the days leading up to the shooting. She also argued that the evidence shows the bullets came out of a box of dummy ammunition that Gutierrez Reed brought on set.
Gutierrez Reed is set to go on trial on Feb. 21 in Santa Fe, N.M., on charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering in the October 2021 shooting. She is accused of negligently loading a live round into Alec Baldwin‘s gun, which should have contained only dummy rounds.
Baldwin was indicted on Jan. 19 on a separate charge of involuntary manslaughter, and has pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set in his case.
Gutierrez Reed has denied bringing the live rounds on set, and has pinned the blame on Seth Kenney, her mentor, who provided guns and dummy ammunition to the production.
Her defense lawyer has alleged that Kenney was never seriously investigated, in part because he has worked closely with the prosecutors and detectives to steer the investigation away from himself.
According to her latest court filing, Morrissey offered Gutierrez Reed a “favorable plea” last September if she would accept responsibility for bringing the live rounds.
“If Hannah can provide any answers regarding the origin of the live rounds I am happy to work with her but short of that we should just move on,” Morrissey wrote in an email to Gutierrez Reed’s attorney.
She also indicated that she did not buy the claim that Kenney was at fault.
“I have no reason to believe Seth Kenney is the source of the live rounds. In fact, I believe the physical evidence disproves this theory,” Morrissey wrote, adding that “pointing the finger at Seth is a non-starter for me.”
Gutierrez Reed’s attorney, Jason Bowles, rejected the offer. He has maintained that Morrissey was trying to pressure his client into giving a false confession, and that Morrissey has since punished his client by filing an additional felony charge for bringing a gun into a bar 20 days before the “Rust” shooting.
Bowles is seeking to have that charge thrown out, arguing it is vindictive, irrelevant to the “Rust” case, and based in improperly obtained evidence.
In her opposition to the motion to dismiss, Morrissey argued that the additional charge was part of routine plea negotiations.
“The state has always been open to resolving Ms. Gutierrez’s cases on one condition — that she take responsibility for the fact that she unknowingly brought live ammunition onto the set of ‘Rust,’” Morrissey wrote. “To be clear, no one ever asked Ms. Gutierrez to provide false information about the origin of the live rounds. Ms. Gutierrez was asked to admit to what the evidence supports — she brought the live rounds on the set of ‘Rust.’”
The filing also indicated that as part of a plea agreement, Gutierrez Reed was willing to testify against Baldwin, but that Morrissey did not think she would be a credible witness given her history of reckless behavior.
Gutierrez Reed has said that Baldwin didn’t pay attention during a gun safety training exercise.
“I can prove that he blew off the training and didn’t take this very seriously without her cooperation,” Morrissey wrote.
To prove the manslaughter charge, the prosecutor will have to show that Gutierrez Reed was not merely careless or inattentive, but that she displayed willful disregard for the safety of others.
In the filing, Morrissey laid out some of the evidence that could help make that argument.
The prosecutor cited numerous text messages between Gutierrez Reed and others that make apparent reference to the use of marijuana and cocaine.
“Do you want me to get us any coke?” one person asked Gutierrez Reed in late September 2021. “Already got some,” Gutierrez Reed responded.
Another exchange indicates that Gutierrez Reed smoked marijuana the night before the shooting.
“Headed down to get high out back,” she wrote.
According to Morrissey, witnesses also saw Gutierrez Reed stoned at her hotel room in Santa Fe while in possession of boxes of ammunition.
In another text exchange after the shooting, Sarah Zachry, the prop master, told Kenney that Gutierrez Reed was “blackout drug” the previous weekend.
“I think she was so drunk that she didn’t know she brought live ammo onto the truck when she went to get a gun from the safe,” Zachry wrote.
Zachry has signed an immunity agreement to testify in the case.
Bowles has denied that his client was intoxicated on set, or that drugs or alcohol impaired her judgment.
Morrissey also indicated that numerous crew members would testify that Gutierrez Reed did not do her job properly and failed to adhere to industry safety standards.