Uh oh. Search warrant for Alec Baldwin's phone issued

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Earlier this month, the Santa Fe District Attorney appeared to respond to Alec Baldwin’s ill-advised interview on ABC News about the shooting on his movie set by saying that “nobody is clear of” potential charges stemming from the tragic incident. Yesterday we learned that she might have been offering some portents of things to come. KOAT News is reporting that the County Sheriff has issued a warrant for Alec Baldwin’s cell phone and they intend to search it for further information related to the death of Halyna Hutchins. While this doesn’t amount to anything definitive in the investigator’s suspicions, it certainly shows that the investigation remains open and active, with at least some questions still left unanswered.

Santa Fe County Sheriff has issued a warrant with the Santa Fe County Magistrate Court, for Alec Baldwin’s cell phone Thursday afternoon.

They say they believe there are key conservations on Baldwin’s phone, related to the investigation on the “Rust” movie set in Santa Fe.

Documents show investigators asked Baldwin for his phone, but he told them they needed to get a warrant.

CNN has a few other details related to this development. An investigator reportedly went and asked Baldwin and his attorney for the phone but was told he would need to “acquire a warrant” if he wanted it. Further, investigators are looking to recover “messages, call logs, digital photos and videos, as well as any private messages sent on social media platforms” related to the production of Rust leading up to the shooting and afterward.

Apparently, the “people in the know” that Baldwin referred to during his interview with George Stephanopoulos might not have been as “in the know” as the actor thought. I would stress again, however, that a desire to go through phone records doesn’t automatically mean that charges are imminent.

With that said, though, when officials investigating an accidental shooting that Baldwin claims had absolutely nothing to do with him ask someone for their phone, you would think that the person would simply offer it up in a show of transparency and a desire to help conclude the proceedings, wouldn’t you? I mean, if you don’t have anything to hide, there’s no reason to create extra work for law enforcement. In any event, after being told to “go get a warrant,” that’s precisely what they did.

The next question to come will involve what they might find on that phone and how hard they have to dig to find it. Forensic technology can retrieve a lot of data from phones these days, even if someone refuses to turn over their password. Will Baldwin give them the password? If he says no, that’s going to be a serious red flag. If he was foolish enough to say or text anything self-incriminating using his phone, that could become a breaking point in the case. (Assuming there is anything incriminating, of course, and this wasn’t all just an accident he knew nothing about in advance.) Going even further, if it’s found that Baldwin went on a binge of deleting things off of his phone in the days following the shooting, that may cause the investigators’ ears to perk up as well.

From the beginning of this entire mess, I’ve been of the opinion that this truly was just a horrible accident caused by a cascading series of gross failures in safe firearms handling procedures. At most, I assumed that Baldwin might have been accused of gross negligence by failing to check the weapon and the ammunition himself upon being handed the revolver. I still can’t imagine how he could be culpable beyond that, but perhaps the investigation has revealed information that we’ve not been given yet.