"Rust" Film Set Tragedy Leads to Conviction of Assistant Director, David Halls

David Halls, the first assistant director of the movie "Rust," was sentenced to six months of probation on Friday, following a plea deal in the case of a fatal shooting on set.

by Faruk Imamovic
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"Rust" Film Set Tragedy Leads to Conviction of Assistant Director, David Halls

David Halls, the first assistant director of the movie "Rust," was sentenced to six months of probation on Friday, following a plea deal in the case of a fatal shooting on set. The tragedy, in which the director of photography Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured, was the result of an accidental discharge of a firearm provided to actor-producer Alec Baldwin.

Negligent Use of a Firearm Leads to Probation

Halls, 63, was handed the sentence for negligent use of a firearm after providing Baldwin with a gun that was supposed to be loaded with fake bullets, but instead contained real ones.

The tragedy occurred on October 21, 2021, when Halls handed Baldwin the weapon and told him it was "cold," meaning it was harmless in Hollywood jargon. Alec Baldwin and the gun handler on set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, have been charged with manslaughter and face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The police investigation aimed to determine how the real bullets ended up in the gun used by Baldwin during filming at a ranch in New Mexico, where such weapons are officially prohibited to prevent accidents. The investigation concluded that Gutierrez-Reed had put real bullets instead of fake ones in the gun.

Assistant Director Failed in Duty to Ensure Firearm Safety

At a hearing in a New Mexico court on Friday, chief prosecutor Kari Morrissey stated that Halls, who was responsible for security on the set and was the "last line of defense," failed to "check every bullet in the weapon to make sure that it is not murderous." However, Halls' defense attorney, Lisa Torraco, argued that the assistant director had checked the rounds in the revolver before handing it to Baldwin and that it was "never in anyone's imagination" that live rounds would be in the gun.

Torraco added that Halls was "extremely traumatized and rattled with guilt," and urged the court not to impose a prison sentence, the maximum possible penalty of which was six months behind bars. However, Morrissey countered that Halls, a veteran filmmaker with over 30 years of experience, failed in his duty as the last line of defense for firearm safety, particularly after two earlier misfires on set.

"Mr. Halls did not check every round that was in the gun to confirm that it was a dummy round and not a live round," Morrissey stated. "He then handed the gun to Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Baldwin began to practice his cross draw. And during that action of practicing the cross draw, the gun went off.

And obviously Mrs. Hutchins was struck by the bullet and was killed." Alec Baldwin, who became famous for his role in the TV series "30 Rock," has always maintained that he was assured that his revolver was harmless.

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