October 2, 2023

Judge agrees to settlement of ‘Rust’ producers with family of murdered cameraman

“Rest” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, left, with husband Matthew Hutchins and their son, Andros Hutchins. Her survivors had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Alec Baldwin and other “Rust” producers. (From the Hutchins family)

A judge in New Mexico on Thursday approved a settlement agreement between the family of slain filmmaker Halyna Hutchins and the producers of the troubled western Rust, including Alec Baldwin.

Hutchins’ close relatives — her husband, Matthew Hutchins, and son, Andros Hutchins — filed a wrongful death lawsuit last year alleging that Baldwin and other producers acted recklessly and contributed to her being fatally shot in October 2021 on the set “Rest”. near Santa Fe, NM

The family blamed cost-cutting measures, including hiring inexperienced crew members, and ignoring safety concerns previously raised by camera crew operators who eventually walked away.

Last fall, the two sides reached an agreement to resolve the civil lawsuit, pending court approval.

Financial details have not been made public.

The settlement was structured in part to compensate Hutchins’ son, who was 9 when his mother died. Information about the procedure has therefore been kept confidential. The court has appointed a guardian ad litem as a lawyer for the boy. The trustee filed a declaration under seal.

As part of the settlement agreement, Hutchins’ widower Matthew became executive producer of the western film, which recently resumed production in Montana.

According to the judge’s order, part of the settlement would be reserved for Hutchins’ son. His share of the settlement will be paid to him when he reaches the ages of 18 and 22, the judge said.

“The Settlement…is fair, proper, and in the best interests of Andros Hutchins, a minor, protected person,” Judge Bryan Biedscheid wrote in his order.

The settlement’s approval closes some of the fallout from the “Rust” tragedy, which shook the industry and raised new questions about safety on film sets.

In a statement last fall, Matthew Hutchins said, “We all believe that Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.”

His statement complicated the work of the New Mexico District Attorney, who at the time was beginning to build a criminal case against Baldwin and others involved in the tragic accident. Baldwin was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in late January, but much of the criminal case has since collapsed.

Special prosecutors who had replaced the district attorney decided in late April to drop criminal charges against Baldwin. The development came after prosecutors said they received new information in the case — that Baldwin’s prop gun had been modified before it was delivered to the low-budget western in October 2021.

Baldwin has long maintained he didn’t pull the trigger when 42-year-old Hutchins was shot during a rehearsal on a sprawling ranch outside of Santa Fe. Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw maneuver with his replica vintage rifle when it fired, hitting Hutchins in the chest at close range.

The film’s director, Joel Souza, was also injured but recovered.

Prosecutors entered a plea deal earlier this year with the film’s assistant director, David Halls, who handed the gun over to Baldwin, stating it was “cold,” meaning it contained no ammunition. In March, Halls pleaded no contest to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and received a six-month suspended prison sentence.

The gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, is still facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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