Alec Baldwin on October 7, 2021 at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Mark Salioko | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
The special prosecutor in the “Rust” manslaughter case against actor Alec Baldwin resigned on Tuesday after attorneys for Baldwin argued that the New Mexico constitution barred her from serving in the role while she was a state representative.
It’s a major setback in the case of State v. Baldwin and co-accused Hannah Gutierrez Reed over the October 2021 accidental fatal shooting of cinematographer Helena Hutchins on the set of “Rust.”
“After much thought, I have made the difficult decision to step down as the Prosecutor in the Rust case,” Special Prosecutor Andrea Repp said in her surprise statement. “My priority in this case – and in every case I have filed over the course of my 25-year career – has been to get justice for the victim.”
“However, it has become clear that the best way I can ensure justice is done in this case is to step aside so the prosecution can focus on the evidence and facts, which clearly show a complete disregard for basic safety protocols that led to the death of Helena Hutchins,” she said.
Ripp’s decision to disqualify herself came after weeks of resistance to that idea by her and Senior Judicial Circuit attorney Mary Carmack-Altois, who hired her.
“I will not allow questions about my work as a lawmaker and attorney general to overshadow the real issue at hand,” Reeb said on Tuesday.
Baldwin’s defense attorneys last month filed a motion asking the judge to remove Reb from the case, arguing that the New Mexico Constitution expressly forbids people from holding office in one branch of government while executing the powers of another.
Contacted by CNBC on Tuesday, Luke Nicas, one of Baldwin’s attorneys, would not comment directly on Repp’s refusal, but did point to the reasoning from his article for excluding Repp as the defense said that “there is no question that Rep. Repp violates both the clear text The purpose of the Separation of Powers Clause of the New Mexico Constitution is by acting simultaneously as legislator and attorney general.”
It is not clear whether Carmack-Altoys will take over the case or appoint a new special prosecutor. The first prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
Baldwin and Gutierrez Reid face two counts of manslaughter, both of which carry an 18-month prison sentence. The jury will decide which number of manslaughter counts applies.
Rust’s original assistant director, David Halls, signed a plea deal for negligence with the use of a deadly weapon, resulting in a suspended prison sentence and six months of probation.
The prosecution has already been criticized for mischaracterizing and handling the case.
Reeb, who previously served as a district attorney in the New Mexico 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, originally charged Baldwin and Gutierrez Reid, the original “Rust” gun maker, in January with so-called firearms promotion. This was the mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years if the defendants were convicted.
But Rippe overturned this improvement after admitting to Baldwin’s attorney via email that she had improperly applied a law only in effect after Hutchins’ murder.
And at a hearing last week, Baldwin’s attorneys confirmed that the gun that killed Hutchins was destroyed in the investigation process. Prosecutors denied that statement, stating that the gun had some internal damage during the FBI’s initial investigation but was still intact.
Along with Rip, Carmack-Altoys has hired spokeswoman Heather Brewer, who is specifically dedicated to answering “Rust” media inquiries. Brewer made incendiary public comments, referring to Baldwin as a celebrity “with imaginary lawyers,” which struck some lawyers as bizarre.
“Plaintiffs have to walk a very fine line between what you can say publicly,” said John Day, a district attorney from New Mexico. “You don’t want to be accused of poisoning the jury early on. That certainly could be a problem here.”