District Attorney Mary Cormack-Altweiss speaks at a news conference after actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed cameraman Halina Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust” on October 27, 2021 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Adria Malcolm | Reuters
The New Mexico district attorney overseeing the “Rust” movie set manslaughter case recused himself Wednesday and appointed new special prosecutors after weeks of upheaval and controversy in the case.
Actor Alec Baldwin and the film’s original cover, Hannah Gutierrez-Reid, were charged with manslaughter in the 2021 shooting of cameraman Halina Hutchins on the set of “Rust.” – Month imprisonment.
New Mexico’s First Judicial District Attorney Mary Cormack-Altweis appointed New Mexico attorneys Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis as special prosecutors. The move comes two weeks after the previous special counsel, Andrea Reep, resigned after Baldwin’s lawyers pressed for her removal, saying her appointment was unconstitutional.
“My responsibility to the people of the First Judicial District is greater than any single case, and that is why I have chosen to appoint a special prosecutor to the ‘Rust’ case,” Cormack-Altwice said in a statement. “Cary Morrissey and Jason Lewis will unflinchingly pursue justice in the death of Halina Hutchins on behalf of the people of the First Judicial District.”
Morrissey and Lewis told CNBC via email: “We will not be releasing statements to the press at this time. We will focus on preparing for the upcoming preliminary hearing.”
CNBC has reached out to Baldwin’s attorneys for comment. Jason Bowles, who represents Gutierrez-Reed, told CNBC in an email that he had no comment “at this time” on Cormack-Altweiss’ denial.
Earlier this week, New Mexico Judge Mary Marlow Sommer ruled that Cormack-Altweiss cannot hire a new special prosecutor, saying the DA’s office does not plan to recuse itself from the case entirely.
During Monday’s hearing, Cormack-Altweiss said the DA’s office is in “dire trouble” due to staff shortages, which she said won’t be alleviated by preliminary hearings in the “rusty” case starting May 3.
“We need additional manpower on this case so that it doesn’t take away from investigating all the other cases that our office currently has,” Cormack-Altwies said Monday.
From the beginning, issues surrounding the appointment of a special prosecutor have dogged the case.
Reeb, a former district attorney, was appointed special prosecutor before being elected to the New Mexico Legislature last fall. During Reuben’s tenure, the prosecution issued several scathing reports about the defense, which critics called highly disorganized and improper.
Baldwin’s attorneys argue that New Mexico’s constitution prevents people from serving as both a lawyer and a legislator at the same time because that could lead to a conflict of interest.
Reep resigned on March 14, a month after Baldwin’s defense attorneys Filed a petition Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys co-signed a petition seeking her dismissal.
Initially, Reep and the DA’s office rejected the motion, calling it a “misconception” that had “no support in New Mexico statutes or case law.” Court documents.
Since stepping down, more details about Reep’s combat commitments have come to light. Most recently, The New York Times reported Reeb suggested in a June 2022 email that working on the case would help his political career.
After that revelation, Baldwin’s attorneys said in court filings last Tuesday that they now reserve the right in the future to argue that Reeb “imposed this case to advance his political career.”
Baldwin’s team did not oppose the appointment of a new special prosecutor. However, Gutierrez-Reed’s legal team called for the request to appoint a new special prosecutor to be denied.
“The law is not designed to give district attorneys a taxpayer-funded auxiliary ‘battleship’ to prosecute cases involving high-profile actors or individuals,” Reid’s attorneys said in a brief before Monday’s hearing.