'Rust' Prosecutor on Alec Baldwin Charges: 'Just Because It's an Accident Doesn't Mean That It's Not Criminal'

Baldwin will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins.

A crime is a crime, whether it's committed intentionally or unintentionally. And that's the message New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies conveyed when explaining why her office will file manslaughter charges against Rust actor/producer Alec Baldwin.

In an interview with CNN's Josh Campbell on Thursday, Carmack-Altwies said she agreed with the chief medical investigator that there was no compelling evidence showing that the October 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was intentional, but she also explained that, despite it being an accident, the shooting rose to the level of a crime.

"Just because it's an accident doesn't mean that it's not criminal. Our involuntary manslaughter statute covers unintentional killings, unintentional homicides," she explained on CNN. "The rest of our homicide statutes cover intentional. But unintentional means they didn't mean to do it. They didn't have the intent to kill, but it happened anyway, and it happened because of more than mere negligence, because they didn't exercise due caution or circumspection. And that's what happened here."

Carmack-Altwies and Rust special prosecutor Andrea Reeb announced on Thursday in a statement that Baldwin, 64, and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Carmack-Altwies and Reeb also said the actor and armorer will be "charged in the alternative" with the two counts of manslaughter, meaning that a jury would decide not simply if they were guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they were guilty.

David Halls, the film's assistant director, signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. The terms include a suspended sentence and six months of probation.

While Baldwin has maintained time and again that he did not pull the trigger on the prop gun that killed Hutchins, Carmack-Altwies is adamant Baldwin pulled the trigger, and she pointed to the FBI's forensic report, in which the federal agency said its accidental discharge testing determined the gun used in the shooting -- a .45 colt caliber F.lli Pietta single-action revolver -- couldn't have gone off without the trigger being pulled.

"Nobody was checking those, or at least they weren't checking them consistently," said Carmack-Altwies about live rounds on the set and mixed in with regular dummy rounds. "And then they somehow got loaded into a gun, handed off to Alec Baldwin. He didn't check it. He didn't do any of the things that he was supposed to do to make sure that he was safe or that anyone around him was safe. And then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and he pulled the trigger."

Before the interview concluded, Carmack-Altwies again was asked to confirm that it's her office's belief Baldwin pulled the trigger. She answered, "Yes, absolutely."

"The FBI lab is one of the best in the world," she explained. "And we absolutely believe that the trigger had to have been pulled in order for that gun to go off. The trigger was pulled."

In the end, Carmack-Altwies said a lack of safety awareness on the set led to the tragedy.

"This was a really fast and loose set, and that nobody was doing their job," she said. "There were three people that, if they had done their job that day, this tragedy wouldn't have happened. And that's David Halls, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and Alec Baldwin. If they had just done their basic duties, this -- we wouldn't be standing here."

In a statement to ET, Baldwin's attorney, Luke Nikas, said his client "relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds."

But Carmack-Altwies is not buying that story.

"Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that, if they are going to handle that gun, point it at someone and pull the trigger, that it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone," she said. "We have talked to many actors, A-list and otherwise, that have said that they always check their guns, that -- or they have someone check it in front of them. So, it's not -- an actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor. And that's what's so important, is that we're saying, here in New Mexico, everyone's equal under the law."

Legal expert Julie Rendelman, who is not involved in the Rust case, opened up to ET about what Baldwin's defense might look like, though she also sees some flaws.

"Alec Baldwin's defense is going to be that he was simply an actor on the set, that he was basing his decision to be able to point his gun safely, because experts told him that the gun was not loaded, and he was relying on them when he made the decisions that he made," Rendelman says. "The prosecution is going to argue, well, no. Alec Baldwin was more than just an actor on that set. He took on many roles that made him not just responsible for that moment in time, but also for the safety that existed as a whole on the set."

Rendelman continued, "The other argument Alec Baldwin has made [is that] he didn't pull the trigger. He said this in a podcast. He said this on an interview with ABC. And the problem with that is, the investigators brought in individuals whose sole expertise is in ballistics, and their finding was that that gun could not have gone off without him pulling the trigger."

Rendelman says one thing Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed have going for them in this case is that the burden of proof falls on the prosecution team to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, "and if they can't meet that burden, then either one or both, will be acquitted of those crimes."

"In a case like this, where there's no question, everyone agrees it was an accident, and the real question is whether or not that accident rises to the level of criminally negligent conduct versus civil conduct," Rendelman tells ET. "It is going to be a tough thing for the jury, and so the question is, when we think about this case, who is to blame?"

As for what's next, Carmack-Altwies says her office will not be asking for Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed to be placed under arrest. She said the actor and the armorer will be summoned for an arraignment that may either be done in person or by video, which is how Santa Fe County has conducted arraignments since the beginning of the pandemic.