The gunsmith of the western Rust, produced by Alec Baldwin and on the set of which the director of photography was killed by a shot in 2021, was sentenced Monday April 15 to eighteen months of imprisonment by the American courts.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed had loaded the revolver with which Alec Baldwin was rehearsing in October 2021, when filming turned tragic on a ranch in New Mexico (southwest): a live bullet killed the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins , and injured the director, Joel Souza.

Star and producer of the film, Alec Baldwin is also charged with manslaughter. He faces the same sentence, but is due to be tried separately in July.

Negligence and “consistent safety failures”

This rare news item shocked Hollywood and provoked calls to ban firearms on sets. During the gunsmith’s trial, the prosecution castigated her amateurism and inexperience. His negligence led to “constant and endless security failures” on set, according to prosecutor Kari Morrissey.

The gunsmith “left guns unattended all the time,” she continued, and did not check that ammunition was safe, in defiance of film industry safety regulations. Blank bullets used on target produce a clicking sound easily identifiable by a professional when shaking the weapon. “If it does not check the dummy ammunition (…) to ensure that they are indeed blank bullets, (…) it is a game of Russian roulette which is engaged each time an actor carries a weapon,” Ms. Morrissey scolded.

Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s defense presented her as a “scapegoat” for a production that neglected safety for financial reasons. The young woman had no way of knowing that live ammunition had infiltrated the set and believed that production had only obtained blank bullets, according to her lawyer Jason Bowles. She was also tasked with other tasks, which prevented her from fully concentrating on her role as an armorer. “The responsibility lies with production, as in any organization. It starts at the top,” he argued.

Interrupted by tragedy, filming of Rust was finally completed in Montana (northwest), with Halyna Hutchins’ widower, Matthew, as executive producer. At the end of 2022, he abandoned the civil proceedings he had initiated against Alec Baldwin following an agreement the amount of which was not disclosed.

Alec Baldwin’s ‘Pressure’ on Set

Alec Baldwin’s lawyers are currently trying to have his criminal trial overturned, by raising nullities. Last week, the prosecution called for its continuation, in a detailed response which heavily charges the 66-year-old actor.

Prosecutors criticize the attitude of the actor, who “regularly yelled” at everyone and wanted to finish the film faster. “Mr. Baldwin’s pressure on the crew on set regularly compromised safety,” the prosecution said.

The actor, who denies having pulled the trigger, “brazenly lied about his behavior” on set, added the prosecution. In his first interrogation with the police, he did not explicitly claim that the gun went off on its own: this thesis was only developed later, during a television interview. An FBI investigation concluded that the gun held by the actor could not have fired without pulling the trigger. It is contested by his defense.