‘Rust’ Armorer Sentenced to 18-Month Prison Term for Involuntary Manslaughter

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the Rust armorer who loaded the live round into the gun Alec Baldwin was holding when it discharged and killed the film’s cinematographer, will serve 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

The decision from Santa Fe judge Mary Sommer, delivered on Monday, comes after a jury found Gutierrez-Reed guilty, making her the first crewmember to be convicted for her role in the accidental shooting death of Halyna Hutchins.

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Involuntary manslaughter charges in New Mexico carry a maximum sentence of 18 months and a fine of up to $5,000. Prosecutors sought the upper limit of the term. Gutierrez-Reed has been at the Santa Fe Adult Detention Facility since March, when she was determined to be liable of involuntary manslaughter but not evidence tampering charges. Last month, Sommer declined to allow a new trial and denied a motion for the armorer to be released while she appeals her conviction.

During the hearing, Sommer spoke about the lack of remorse Gutierrez-Reed expressed from phone calls that were monitored while she was awaiting sentencing.

“In her own words, she’s said she didn’t need to be shaking dummies all the time,” Sommer said. She stressed, “You were the armorer, the one that stood between a safe weapon and a weapon that could kill someone. You alone turned a safe weapon into a lethal weapon. But for you, Ms. Hutchins would be alive, a husband would have his partner and a little boy would have his mother.”

Prior to the delivery of her sentence, Gutierrez-Reed, 26, asked to be issued probation rather than serve time in prison. She addressed the court.

“First and foremost, my heart aches for Hutchins’ family and friends, and colleagues as well, since this tragedy occurred,” she said, adding that she was “young and naive” when she accepted the armorer position but “took my job as seriously as I knew how to” despite “not having proper time, resources and staffing.” The armorer concluded, “The jury has found me in part at fault for this God-awful tragedy but that doesn’t make me a monster, that makes me human.”

At the hearing, lead prosecutor Kari Morrissey urged the judge to issue the highest allowable sentence for the “cascade of set violations” that led to Hutchins’ death. She said Gutierrez-Reed “continues to refuse to accept responsibility for her role,” citing nearly 200 calls the prosecution monitored after she was taken into custody.

“Rather than accept responsibility, she has chosen to point blame at the witnesses who testified against her, me, you, the jury, the set medic and the paramedics who tried to save Ms. Hutchins’ life,” Morrissey said. She moved to designate the armorer a “serious violent offender” to limit her eligibility for a sentence reduction.

Sommer said that Gutierrez-Reed conveyed in those calls that the armorer largely considered the prosecution a “character attack on her” and was “dismissive” of her role in the shooting. Gutierrez-Reed also allegedly said without evidence that the judge was “getting paid off.”

Gutierrez-Reed could’ve alternatively been sentenced to 12 months at the Santa Fe Adult Detention Facility, at the end of which she would serve probation for the remainder of her sentence. Sommer chose to issue the maximum allowable sentence.

Craig Mizrahi, Hutchins’ agent at Innovative Artists, also spoke at the sentencing, blaming producers for cutting corners on safety and hiring an inexperienced armorer in Gutierrez-Reed, who he said should’ve refused the job. He added the shooting “was not a simple accident” but a “chain of events that led to the killing of someone,” which could’ve been “broken if the armorer did the job she was hired to do.”

Director Joel Souza, who was injured in the shooting, pinned the incident on “Ms. Reed’s failures that day.”

Additionally, relatives and acquaintances of the armorer spoke of the impact Hutchins had on their lives, arguing for the court to issue the maximum prison term. “I do not want for this to be taken as an unpunished accident,” said Olga Solovey, Hutchins’ sister, who spoke via a precorded video from Ukraine.

Gloria Allred, who’s representing Hutchins’ parents and sister in a lawsuit against Rust Movie Productions, read a statement from the cinematographer’s father over the “systematic gross violations of safety rules during” the filming of Rust.

Several of Hutchins’ peers in the film industry said that the sentence will send a message to the industry that could spur improvements to set safety. Amnak Rabanal, Hutchins’ friend, said she hopes the decision will serve as a “rallying point for the systemic change necessary” to push back against negligence on productions, which she said largely consider crewmembers “dispensable cogs in a machine.”

Jen White, another of the cinematographer’s friends, said Gutierrez-Reed was the “catalyst” for widespread negligence on the low-budget Western that led to the accidental shooting.

The shooting occurred Oct. 21, 2021, when an old-fashioned revolver Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a cross-draw with went off while he was practicing drawing the prop firearm. The Colt .45 revolver was handed to him by assistant director David Halls, who said that it didn’t contain live ammunition. While he was practicing a drawing maneuver, it discharged in the direction of Hutchins, who was killed. Five live rounds mixed in with dummy rounds were found on set following the incident. It remains unknown how they ended up on the set, with Gutierrez-Reed refusing a plea deal in exchange for admitting that she introduced them.

Before the sentence was delivered, Thell Reed, a veteran armorer and Gutierrez-Reed’s father, maintained that his daughter did not introduce live rounds onto the set. He blamed ammunition supplier Seth Kenney and prop master Sarah Zachry.

In the trial, prosecutors argued that Gutierrez-Reed, who has maintained that she believed she loaded Baldwin’s gun with “dummy” rounds, was careless in handling firearms and ammunition on the set of the low-budget Western. She was also blamed for bringing live ammunition onto the set and failing to follow safety protocols.

The defense, meanwhile, revolved around arguments that Gutierrez-Reed was scapegoated for larger safety issues on set that she couldn’t control. Jason Bowles, representing the armorer, faulted Baldwin, who was one of more than a dozen producers on the film, among others. She plans to appeal the conviction.

Baldwin faces a trial in which he’s charged with involuntary manslaughter, scheduled to start in July. Last week, prosecutors claimed that in a court filing that Baldwin, a producer on Rust, endangered others by missing initial firearms training. He arrived on set one week after filming began and instead underwent a separate session, where he was “inattentive,” prosecutors alleged. He was also faulted for hiring an inexperienced armorer in Gutierrez-Reed and for pulling the trigger on the gun when the scene only called for him to pull it from the holster.

“To watch Mr. Baldwin’s conduct on the set of Rust is to witness a man who has absolutely no control of his emotions and absolutely no concern for how his conduct effects those around him,” the response to Baldwin’s dismissal motion stated.

Gutierrez-Reed’s sentence may serve as an indication as to Baldwin’s potential sentence if he’s convicted.

“Finding sympathy for Baldwin will be no easy task for his defense team, although his counsel will argue that he did not load the gun and will attempt to minimize his producer role on the set, something the prosecution will refute,” says Kelly Krapf, a former appeals attorney for Illinois. “Following a conviction, prosecutors typically ask for the highest penalty, so if a jury finds him guilty, he could receive the 18 months behind bars for an involuntary manslaughter conviction.”

The armorer’s conviction and sentence may also help establish criminal liability in future instances in which negligence leads to injuries on a production.

Last year, Halls was sentenced to six months unsupervised probation as part of a plea deal for his role in the shooting. He was charged with a misdemeanor for negligent use of a deadly weapon. His attorney had argued that he was not responsible for the supervision of firearms and that his only responsibility was to ensure there were safety meetings.

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