SAG-AFTRA Defends Alec Baldwin Amid New Involuntary Manslaughter Charge for 'Rust' Shooting

The union spoke out on behalf of Baldwin on Thursday.

After Alec Baldwin was once again indicted by a grand jury on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the Rust shooting last week, SAG-AFTRA is coming to the actor's defense.

The union released a statement on Thursday arguing that it was not Baldwin's responsibility as an actor to know whether or not the gun he was holding was safe.

"To the extent that the charges filed on January 19 are based on an accusation of negligent use of a firearm predicated on this or any actor having a duty to inspect a firearm as part of its use, that is an incorrect assessment of the actual duties of an actor on set," SAG-AFTRA expressed in their statement.

"An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert," the union continued. "Firearms are provided for use on set under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm."

According to the union, there are safety guidelines set up with the express intention of minimizing potential hazards related to the use to firearms on set.

"The guidelines require an experienced, qualified armorer to be put in charge of all handling, use, and safekeeping of firearms on set. These duties include 'inspecting the firearm and barrel before and after every firing sequence,' and 'checking all firearms before each use,'" the union stated. "The guidelines do not make it the performer’s responsibility to check any firearm. Performers train to perform, and they are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use."

"Anyone issued a firearm on set must be given training and guidance in its safe handling and use, but all activity with firearms on a set must be under the careful supervision and control of the professional armorer and the employer," the statement concluded.

On Jan. 19, special prosecutors Kari T. Morrissey and Jason Lewis announced that a grand jury had indicted the actor with a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Halyna Hutchins. If convicted of the fourth-degree felony, Baldwin is facing up to 18 months in prison.

"We look forward to our day in court," Baldwin's attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, told ET in a statement at the time.

The armorer on the Rust set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, has been accused of consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana during the filming of the Western. In January 2023, prosecutors charged Gutierrez-Reed with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. She pleaded not guilty. Her trial is set to begin in February. 

Back in October, the special prosecutors announced that they intended to present the case to a Santa Fe grand jury and argue probable cause existed to criminally charge the 65-year-old actor after previously dropping charges against him.

The special prosecutors claimed they came to the determination following an extensive investigation that they say yielded "additional facts" that showed Baldwin "has criminal culpability in the death of Halyna Hutchins and the shooting of [Rust director] Joel Souza."

Hutchins, 42, was killed on Oct. 21, 2021 on the set of Rust -- at the Bonanza Creek Ranch -- when the prop gun Baldwin was holding suddenly discharged, striking and killing the cinematographer and injuring Souza. 

Baldwin has repeatedly maintained that he did not pull the trigger on the prop gun. 

On Wednesday, Baldwin's lawyers responded to the new indictment. According to court docs obtained by ET, Baldwin's legal council emphasized their "demand for speedy trial, discovery and exculpatory information, notice of defense intent to call witnesses," as outlined by the Sixth Amendment.

The docs state that Baldwin is seeking a speedy trial to "minimize public vilification and suspicion" and to "avoid the hazards of proving his innocence that often arise after a lengthy delay in prosecution."

Baldwin has been ordered to appear before a judge in New Mexico to enter a plea on Feb. 1 at 11 a.m. The actor has the option to show up to court via phone or video conference.