'Rust' armorer attempts to block special prosecutor's appointment

FILE PHOTO: View of the "Rust" movie set at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S., January 20, 2023. REUTERS/Drone Base

TAOS, New Mexico (Reuters) -The armorer charged in the New Mexico shooting death of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Friday challenged the district attorney's plan to appoint a new special prosecutor in the case after the last one was forced to resign.

Special prosecutor Andrea Reeb resigned on March 15 after a legal challenge by lawyers for actor Alec Baldwin, who has also been charged in the 2021 shooting. Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge, and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is expected to do the same.

Should Gutierrez-Reed stop the appointment of a new special prosecutor, it would mark another setback for the state's prosecution after a series of legal fumbles.

Reeb, a Republican state representative, was forced to step down after Baldwin's defense argued it was illegal to serve two branches of New Mexico state government simultaneously.

Gutierrez-Reed's lawyer Jason Bowles on Friday filed a motion saying it was unlawful to appoint a special prosecutor because Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, already a co-prosecutor, could handle the case. A hearing scheduled for Monday will consider the motion.

Carmack-Altwies, who appointed Reeb, in a separate filing said she was entitled to appoint a new special prosecutor given the "magnitude" of the case and her existing workload.

Hutchins was killed and "Rust" director Joel Souza injured when a revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with fired a live round. "Rust" was only the second film on which Gutierrez-Reed worked as chief weapons handler.

The most serious count of involuntary manslaughter against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed was dropped after defense lawyers said a law underpinning the charge was passed after Hutchins was killed.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed face a preliminary hearing on May 3 when a judge will rule whether there is probable cause to try them.

"Rust" first assistant director Dave Halls reached a plea deal for a misdemeanor charge and has a hearing on March 31.

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