CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

‘Rust’ movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed sentenced to 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter

Apr 15, 2024, 11:00 PM

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, here on March 6, was sentenced by a New Mexico judge to 18 months in prison ...

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, here on March 6, was sentenced by a New Mexico judge to 18 months in prison Monday. (Luis Sánchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican/Pool/AP via CNN Newsource)

(Luis Sánchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican/Pool/AP via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer of the film “Rust,” was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter last month for the 2021 on-set fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. 

“I did not hear you take accountability in your allocution. You said you were sorry, but not (that) you were sorry for what you did,” Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said.

“You alone turned a safe weapon into a lethal weapon,” the judge said. “But for you, Ms. Hutchins would be alive. A husband would have his partner, and a little boy would have his mother.”

Gutierrez Reed, 26, had no visible reaction to the sentence. She was taken from the courtroom after the sentence was announced.

The verdict comes more than two years after Hutchins, 42, was killed by ammunition fired from a prop gun on October 21, 2021. The film’s director was also injured in the shooting.

As the armorer, Gutierrez Reed was responsible for firearm safety and storage on set. She became the first person to stand trial and be convicted in the case.

At trial, prosecutors argued she repeatedly violated safety protocol and acted without caution in performing her duties. Her defense attorney argued she has been scapegoated for the safety failures of film set management and other crew members. Gutierrez Reed did not testify.

After hearing from more than 30 witnesses and deliberating for nearly three hours, jurors found Gutierrez Reed guilty of involuntary manslaughter on March 6. She was acquitted of a separate charge of evidence tampering.

Prosecutors had asked she be sentenced to the maximum prison time.  In contrast, the defense had asked she be released on probation, arguing she has no prior criminal history.

She has been in custody since her conviction. Her defense attorney Jason Bowles told CNN they plan to appeal.

Baldwin, the actor and celebrity, has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter and is expected to stand trial in July. He has pleaded not guilty and has maintained he did not pull the firearm’s trigger.

A judge is currently considering a motion filed by Baldwin’s legal team to dismiss his indictment, citing alleged impropriety by the government – a motion prosecutors vehemently slammed in a rebuttal filing of their own.

Former armorer says ‘my heart aches’

Prior to the sentence, Hutchins’ family in Ukraine and friends spoke Monday about what Hutchins meant to them.

“The day of her death ruined my entire life,” her mother, Olga Solovey, said in a video with translated subtitles. “It’s heart-wrenching to see her child grow without his mother.”

Joel Souza, the “Rust” director and screenwriter who was also shot in the incident, acknowledged the physical and emotional pain he has felt since the shooting.

“One day the world made sense, and the next day it didn’t, and it still doesn’t, and I’m not sure it ever will again,” he said.

He described Hutchins as a great talent. “She was a touchstone for all who knew her, and those of us who were lucky enough to have shared in her fleeting time on this planet are better for it,” he said.

Gutierrez Reed, wearing a beige jail uniform, spoke in court and offered her condolences to those affected by Hutchins’ death.

“First and foremost, my heart aches for Hutchins’ family and friends and colleagues as well and it has since the day this tragedy occurred,” she said. “Halyna has been and always will be an inspiration to me. I understand she was taken too soon and I pray that you all find peace.”

She asked the judge to sentence her to probation.

Read more: ‘Rust’ movie armorer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter

“Your honor, when I took on Rust I was young and I was naïve, but I took my job as seriously as I knew how to. Despite not having proper time, resources and staffing, when things got tough I just did my best to handle it.”

“The jury has found me in part at fault for this godawful tragedy, but that doesn’t make me a monster, that makes me human,” she said.

In a sentencing memo dated April 10, Gutierrez Reed’s defense team requested she be released on probation with conditions set by the judge and undergo counseling and rehabilitative efforts. She feels “incredibly saddened and heart broken by what happened on that tragic day on the Rust set,” the memo said.

In an April 12 court filing responding to the defense memo, prosecutors requested Gutierrez Reed be sentenced to 18 months in prison. They argued she “continues to deny responsibility and blame others.” Prosecutors also cited jail calls in which Gutierrez Reed allegedly complained “about the negative affects this incident has had on her life” and called jurors derogatory names.

A native of Ukraine, Hutchins obtained a graduate degree in international journalism from Kyiv National University and worked as an investigative journalist with British documentary productions in Europe. She later moved to Los Angeles and discovered a love of cinematography.

She was credited with involvement in the production of 49 film, TV and video titles during her career, according to IMDB. Gutierrez Reed worked on movies including “Archenemy,” starring Joe Manganiello. American Cinematographer magazine named her a rising star in 2019.

What happened in the trial

The fatal shooting took place during a break in the filming of the Western movie “Rust” at the Bonanza Creek Ranch outside of Santa Fe.

Baldwin had been practicing for a scene and was drawing and pointing a revolver with guidance from Hutchins and Souza, according to a 2023 probable cause statement.

Baldwin drew the revolver, pointed it at Hutchins and fired the weapon shortly before 2 p.m., striking her in the chest and injuring Souza, prosecutors said in the probable cause statement. Just after 3:30 p.m., Hutchins died.

In the trial, prosecutors alleged Gutierrez Reed repeatedly violated safety protocols and neglected her responsibilities leading up to the shooting. She failed to perform safety checks on the prop weapon and the ammunition she loaded it with, handed it to a staff member who should not have been handling weapons on set and then departed the area when Baldwin ultimately fired the fatal round, prosecutors said.

“This is not a case where Hannah Gutierrez made one mistake and that one mistake was accidentally putting a live round into that gun,” Morrissey said during closing arguments. “This case is about constant, never-ending safety failures that resulted in the death of a human being and nearly killed another.”

Morrissey said Gutierrez Reed’s repeated failures allowed six live rounds to make their way onto the set and said she did not conduct safety checks that would have caught them.

“She had six, six live rounds on that movie set, the earliest date that I can track them for you is October 10, (2021),” the prosecutor said. “Six, and she failed to ferret them out for 12 days. What that means is that she wasn’t shaking any dummy rounds, she wasn’t testing anything.”

“Dummy” rounds refer to ammunition that contains no explosive elements but looks as if it was a real bullet when fired.

Bowles, the defense attorney, placed the blame elsewhere. He questioned how the live ammunition made it on set and alleged the production team created a chaotic and unsafe environment that put Gutierrez Reed under “really tough conditions to keep up with.” He also said Baldwin did not follow common-sense gun safety rules on set when he handled the firearm and acted unpredictably when he pointed the weapon at Hutchins.

“(Gutierrez Reed) could not anticipate what Baldwin would do. It was not in the script, it was not foreseeable,” he said in closing arguments. “Management was responsible for safety failures and not Hannah.”

During the armorer’s trial, assistant film director David Halls admitted he was “negligent” in checking the gun and did not properly look through all the rounds in the gun’s chamber when Gutierrez Reed presented it to him. He yelled “cold gun” before handing the weapon to Baldwin, a remark meant to indicate the firearm did not have live rounds, according to a court document.

Halls took a plea deal in 2023 for his role in the shooting, pleading no contest to one count of negligent use of a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation, a $500 fine, had to participate in a firearms safety class, complete 24 hours of community service and not use drugs or alcohol.

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‘Rust’ movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed sentenced to 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter