(SNews) – Embattled Hollywood star Alec Baldwin has scored a huge win after prosecutors dropped a firearms charge against him in connection to the fatal shooting of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Prosecutors dropped the firearms enhancement charge originally brought against Baldwin.
The move means that Baldwin is no longer facing mandatory five years of prison time in the criminal case.
According to court documents, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies filed the paperwork to drop the charge on Monday morning.
“In order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor have removed the firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the ‘Rust’ film set,” Heather Brewer, spokesperson for the district attorney, told Fox News.
“The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys.”
If Baldwin had been convicted of the involuntary manslaughter and firearms enhancement charges, the “30 Rock” actor would have faced a mandatory five years in jail.
The max jail time he faces now is 18 months.
Baldwin’s lawyers had argued the enhancement was “unconstitutional” in a February 10 filing.
“The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a version of the firearm-enhancement statute that did not exist on the date of the accident,” the filing read.
Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act.
Attorneys for Baldwin argued the firearms enhancement charge was not part of New Mexico law when the fatal shooting of Hutchins occurred, and that he could not be punished retroactively.
Legal experts previously explained to Fox News why Baldwin’s defense chose to file this motion and predicted that the firearm enhancement would be dropped.
“The government can’t pass a law and retroactively punish someone under that law,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani explained to Fox News.
“The judge is likely going to toss that enhancement, and so Baldwin is just looking at a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail. Baldwin is facing less of a legal risk, so he has a lot of leverage going into a trial.”
“The original law that was on the books was very specific in the way it defined ‘brandishing,’ and Baldwin was clearly not in violation of that law, or he would have been charged as such,” Ted Spaulding, a personal injury lawyer, told the outlet.
“Prosecutors were likely searching for something similar that they could charge him with when they found this newer version of the law that, interestingly, has a harsher sentence of five years and looked like something they could win at trial.”
“The only issue is the bill was passed months after the shooting took place, and laws cannot be retroactively applied.”
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer also granted the prosecution’s motion for an extended time to respond to Baldwin’s request for the special prosecutor to be removed from the case, according to a document also filed Monday.
The actor’s attorneys previously argued Andrea Reeb could not simultaneously serve as the special prosecutor and as a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives.
“Doing so vests two core powers of different branches – legislating and prosecuting – in the same person and is thus barred by the plain language of Article III of the New Mexico Constitution,” the legal documents read.
Hutchins died on October 21, 2021, after Baldwin shot her with a gun he was holding on the set of “Rust” in New Mexico.
The shot also injured director Joel Souza.
He is set to make his first court appearance on February 24.
Baldwin could appear virtually during the hearing, which will be live-streamed on YouTube.
Prosecutors laid out their case against Baldwin in specific detail in the probable cause statement released on January 31.
“Baldwin’s deviation from known standards, practice, and protocol directly caused the fatal death of Hutchins,” the documents state.
“By not receiving the required training on firearms, not checking the firearm with the armorer, letting the armorer leave the firearms in the church without being present, deviating from the practice of only accepting the firearm from the armorer, not dealing with the safety complaints on set and/or making sure safety meetings were held, putting his finger on the trigger of a real firearm when a replica or rubber gun should have been used, pointing the firearms at Hutchins and Souza, and the overall handling of the firearms in a negligent manner, Baldwin acted with willful disregard for the safety of others and in a manner which endangered other people, specifically Hutchins, and Souza.”