Alec Baldwin claims he can't be sued for 'Rust' shooting and actors are above gun safety rules
Plus he’s as much of a victim as Halyna Hutchins (who he shot and killed)
Alec Baldwin believes that being an actor means the rules don’t apply to him. Literally.
Baldwin’s lawyer Luke Nikas filed Friday an extensive claim with new details of the shooting in response to the lawsuit against him by Halyna Hutchins’s husband.
Nikas sent me the filing, which is uploaded below for paid subscribers. In it, Baldwin’s team says “an actor cannot rule that a gun is safe. That is the responsibility of the people on the set.”
Baldwin wants a judge and jury to believe that gun safety rules are only for the “people on the set” — ie those who are not rich and famous.
“The facts make clear that Baldwin is not culpable for these events or failures,” Nikas writes. A judge in New Mexico will determine if the actor is financially liable in the lawsuit by Matthew Hutchins for wrongful death.
Baldwin doesn’t think he has to pay. He believes he’s the second victim
I asked Matthew Hutchins’s lawyer, Brian Panish at Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP, for his response.
“Alec Baldwin once again is trying to avoid liability and accountability for his reckless actions before and on Oct 21st that resulted in the death of Halyna Hutchins, as demonstrated by today’s arbitration demand for indemnification from the Rust production company,” said Panish.
Baldwin’s legal defense
Nikas submitted a 37-page filing that claims Baldwin is not responsible financially, criminally or even ethically for Halyna’s death.
I have been reporting exclusively for months that Nikas is Baldwin’s lawyer for civil suits — and putting it behind paywall to stop other reporters from stealing my work again. (It worked.)
I’ve been in contact with him since I exclusively reported on the $25 million lawsuit against Baldwin brought by fallen Marine Rylee McCollum’s family.
Nikas didn’t respond to me a couple of weeks ago for comment when I reported exclusively that he had not yet been served by Hutchins’s legal team.
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Actors don’t assume guns are loaded
Baldwin says he knows the gun safety rules but they just don’t apply to him. There are three gun safety rules that society uses to ensure that no one gets accidentally shot: (1) assume every gun is loaded (2) keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; and (3) don’t touch the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
Baldwin blew off all these rules.
This is his defense from Nikas:
Baldwin is an actor. He didn’t announce that the gun was “cold” when it really contained a live round; he didn’t load the gun; he didn’t check the bullets in the gun; he didn’t purchase the bullets; he didn’t make the bullets and represent that they were dummies; he wasn’t in charge of firearm safety on the set; he didn’t hire the people who supplied the bullets or checked the gun; and he played no role in managing the movie’s props. Each of those jobs was performed by someone else.
Also, Baldwin’s lawyer claims that an actor is not even capable of checking to see if a gun is loaded.
Baldwin believed, based on prior gun safety training he received on movie sets, that actors should not unilaterally check guns for live ammunition. If actors want to check a gun for their own peace of mind, they should only check the gun with the armorer closely supervising the process. In other words, actors may jointly inspect a gun with the armorer, but never on their own.
In the Hutchins lawsuit (which I uploaded in this story), it claims:
Defendant Baldwin never verified the gun was safe before operating the gun, nor did he require the armorer or Defendant [Assistant Director Dave] Halls to demonstrate in his presence that the gun was safe.
But as a veteran film and movie actor told me in my story on guns in Hollywood: “It is the actor's responsibility to not proceed until the gun is proven safe. The stakes are too high not to.” Mega movie star George Clooney said the same thing, which really irritated Baldwin.
Actors have special ammunition
Baldwin’s legal team lumps together a bunch of issues related to ammunition -- that would be irrelevant if “the actor” had followed the rules we all do -- but here are the claims:
In industry jargon, with which Baldwin was well familiar after working as an actor for 42 years, that meant the pistol contained either nothing or only “dummy” rounds. “Dummy” rounds have a projectile but no charge; blank rounds have a charge but no projectile. And live ammunition is not permitted on the set at any time.
But remember, right after the shooting, the production company for “Rust” and Baldwin himself released a statement to media that said:
There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of Rust involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.
So even before he lied to the media to say there was no live round, he said there was a blank -- which could have killed someone like it did actor Brandon Lee and others.
I wrote this the story below the week of the shooting and it stands:
Actors can point guns at innocent people but not cross draw
So Baldwin claims actors don’t have to follow rule No. 2 because they have to do what the director and cinematographer tell them, even if they kill someone. When he was interviewed on ABC News after the shooting, Baldwin said he didn’t follow the rule to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction — because Halyna was “directing” him to point the gun at her. Baldwin goes into further detail in this court filing.
Baldwin did not perform a “cross-draw” of the gun. He pulled the gun out slowly, without issue, and held it still before Hutchins began giving any directions to him.
It’s interesting that Baldwin said on ABC that he pulled the gun out from across his chest — that is a cross draw — but now says under oath that he did not. He also swears this is what happened:
Hutchins described what she would like Baldwin to do with the placement of the gun, which contained only “dummy rounds,” as far as everyone was told. She directed Baldwin to hold the gun higher, to a point where it was directed toward her. She was looking carefully at the monitor and then at Baldwin, and then back again, as she gave these instructions.
However, this is how Matthew Hutchins claim says things went down on set:
Defendant Baldwin was sitting on a church pew at the Bonanza Creek location, approximately four feet away from multiple members of the crew of Rust, when he reached across his body and used his right hand to grab the revolver holstered on his left side, drew the revolver with a “cross draw” movement across his body and aimed it directly at Ms. Hutchins while drawing back the hammer on the revolver. He released the revolver’s hammer, and – BAM – Defendant Baldwin fired the revolver.
It doesn’t matter whether or not Halyna told Baldwin to point the gun at her. He shouldn’t have done it. As I wrote, I’ve been asked on sets to point a gun at a photographer and said “no.” Safety rules are the individual’s responsibility, no matter what Actor Alec Baldwin claims.
Actors can shoot guns without pulling the trigger
Baldwin has insisted since he did the ABC interview that he never pulled the trigger. While I’ve fact-checked that claim and determined that there is a teeny tiny chance he could have shot that revolver just by pulling the hammer, it’s extremely unlikely. But he will not admit there’s even the slightest possibility he had his finger on the trigger. In the new filing, lawyer Nikas:
Baldwin asked Hutchins whether she wanted to see him cock the gun, as the script required. She responded yes. Baldwin tipped the gun down somewhat so that the lens of the camera would be able to focus on his hand’s action on the top of the gun. While performing this action, Baldwin asked Hutchins, “Am I holding it too far down?” and “Do you see that?” Hutchins responded that she could see Baldwin’s action from her angle.
Baldwin then pulled back the hammer, but not far enough to actually cock the gun. When Baldwin let go of the hammer, the gun went off.
When I first read the Hutchins lawsuit and saw it also said Baldwin fired the gun without touching the trigger, I thought that was interesting. I asked Hutchins’s law firm spokesman about it but didn’t get any insight.
Since it’s believed that there is no video or film of the incident, it may be that the sheriff’s investigation will not be able to say one way or another.
The FBI forensics on the gun and ammunition was supposed to go back to the Santa Fe Sheriff Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza by the end of February. On Saturday, the sheriff’s spokesman, Juan Rios, told me the information from the FBI had not yet come back to them.
Actors have a 4th and 5th gun safety rules
Baldwin doesn’t deny knowing society’s gun safety rules, but also makes up some of his own:
The day after he arrived, Baldwin had training with Reed, Rust’s armorer. Training lasted around 90 minutes. During the session, Reed reminded Baldwin of gun safety measures he had learned at substantially similar gun trainings throughout his career, such as always putting the down immediately once “cut” is called and not to force the gun if it jams.
Actors are not producers when the lawsuits come
Hollywood actors become producers of their movies in order to make more money, have more creative control and for their egos. Now Baldwin wants a takeback on his producer credit. This new claim lists a lot of reasons why Baldwin is not really a producer (read it below) and the purpose is to get out of paying any money in these lawsuits.
Baldwin attacks Matthew Hutchins by insinuating he is greedy and refused a settlement worth “millions of dollars” that would have come from insurance and shooting the rest of the “Rust movie” and giving him some proceeds:
But plans to complete Rust and to channel its proceeds into a fund for Hutchins’s and his son’s benefit have unfortunately broken down as a result of the lawsuit and these public statements.
Hutchins’s attorney fired back on Friday. “It is shameful that Baldwin claims Hutchins’ actions in filing a wrongful death lawsuit derailed the completion of “Rust,” said Panish. “The only action that ended the film’s production was Baldwin’s killing of Halyna Hutchins.”
I was stunned reading the Baldwin claim because he published the private texts with Matthew Hutchins in an effort to show he was a good guy. (Read the texts in the filing below.) I asked his lawyer about it.
“Baldwin’s disclosure of personal texts with Matt Hutchins is irrelevant to his demand for arbitration and fails to demonstrate anything other than Hutchins’ dignity in his engagement with Baldwin.,” said Panish.
Baldwin is a victim
Alec Baldwin has believed he is a victim since the minute he shot Hutchins and left the scene.
He told ABC that he did not feel guilt for killing Hutchins. He said he would not be charged criminally. Now he says he does not have to pay her family anything because none of this is his fault. And he is complaining that he is suffering from PTSD from being an “accidental killer”: