‘Rust’ assistant director David Halls was sentenced to six months probation Friday for failing to check for live bullets before handing Alec Baldwin the gun with which he fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Halls looked solemn as he entered his no-contest plea and agreed to the various conditions set under his probation to New Mexico First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer via teleconference
The judge initially sentenced Halls to a six-month jail term but suspended it since the 63-year old has agreed to testify in the upcoming criminal cases against Baldwin and set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
The October 2021 on-set tragedy unfolded when a live bullet was accidentally loaded into a pistol and fired by Baldwin during a scene rehearsal at a Santa Fe church, striking and killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.
Lisa Torraco, Halls’ defense attorney, said it was Gutierrez-Reed’s job to check the firearms before handing the gun to her client, who then gave the firearm to Baldwin.
“When he checked the firearm at that point in time, he’s checking to see if there are any blanks or dummy rounds in the firearm,” Torraco said. “Never in anyone’s wildest dreams or in anyone’s imagination … did anyone think that there could possibly be a live round in the firearm.”
She continued, “Mr. Halls does not handle firearms. His job is not to handle firearms. He does not like firearms.”
Karen Morrissey, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, disagreed and said Halls was “the last line of defense” and was responsible to check if there were any live rounds before handing the gun to Baldwin on the Santa Fe, New Mexico set on Oct. 21, 2021.
The prosecutor added that before the fatal shooting, the camera crew walked off the set over safety concerns because of two prior incidents where weapons also were discharged.
“Mr. Halls did not check every round that was in the gun to confirm that it was a dummy round and not a live round,” Morrissey said. “He then handed the gun to Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Baldwin began to practice his cross-draw. During that action of practicing the cross-draw the gun went off.”
According to a search warrant, Halls had shouted the weapon was a “cold gun” — meaning it was safe to use — before he handed it to Baldwin.
Halls pleaded no-contest to petty misdemeanor negligent use of a deadly weapon. As part of the plea, he agreed to take a firearms safety course within 60 days, pay a $500 fine and to not possess or consume alcohol or drugs without a prescription.
The judge also ordered him to complete 24 hours of community service. He was also ordered to “take responsibility for his actions or inactions” related to the charges and have no contact with potential witnesses in the case.
Torraco said Halls wanted to cooperate with authorities so the Hutchins and Souza families would be able to “move on.”
“He’s happy to cooperate either with his co-defendants or the state for any of his insight or testimony that might be needed as the case moves on to fruition,” Torraco said. ‘I just want to emphasize to the court that Mr. Halls is in a lot of pain and a lot of trauma. He was three feet from Ms. Hutchins when the firearm went off. No one expected this.”
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter each in January and have pleaded not guilty.