Medical examiner: Baldwin shooting ruled "an accident"

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Yesterday, we discussed the vague report from the FBI which concluded that actor Alec Baldwin “must have” pulled the trigger when he shot and killed Halyna Hutchins on the set of his now canceled movie “Rust.” The publicly released details of the report left a number of important questions unanswered. But last night, the Office of the Medical Investigator which has been investigating the incident followed up with their own report. They have concluded that the shooting was accidental in nature and they also included additional details that were missing from the earlier update. One of the key items was the fact that the FBI had indeed tested the same weapon that Baldwin used in the shooting and found that it was fully functional until it broke during the extensive testing process. (Associated Press)

The fatal film-set shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin last year was an accident, according to a determination made by New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports.

The medical investigator’s report was made public Monday by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office along with numerous reports from the FBI on the revolver and ammunition that were collected following the shooting.

Prosecutors have not yet decided if any charges will be filed in the case, saying they would review the latest reports and were awaiting cell phone data from Baldwin’s attorneys.

It appears obvious that the Medical Examiner’s report was finished well before this, but they were waiting for the release of the FBI report before putting out their own. The autopsy was clearly finished long ago since Hutchins was laid to rest last November. There also were not many mysteries in the autopsy in terms of the cause of death since she had clearly been shot in the chest with a large-caliber bullet.

Baldwin’s attorneys were quick to pounce on the report, claiming that it was only further proof that the shooting was “a tragic accident” and their client should not face any criminal charges stemming from the incident. They further asserted that Baldwin “had no authority or knowledge of the allegedly unsafe conditions on the set,” despite being a producer of the film. In their conclusion, they appeared to absolve Alec Balwin of criminal behavior, saying there was an “absence of obvious intent to cause harm or death”

The District Attorney’s office still hasn’t reached a conclusion as to whether or not any charges will be filed. They have been waiting for these reports to come out. But it’s interesting to note that after all this time, Baldwin still hasn’t turned over his cell phone data to the DA’s office. If this was all just a tragic accident (as it clearly seems to have been), what does he have to hide in that cell phone?

Maureen Callahan of the New York Post describes this development quite differently, saying that “the walls are closing in as his gun lie falls apart.” She appears to suggest that Baldwin shouldn’t be let entirely off the hook for Hutchins’ killing.

Are the walls closing in yet, Alec?

This FBI report is reason to cheer. Not since OJ Simpson have we seen someone so guilty act so aggrieved, entitled, put-upon and victimized, as if this whole tragedy has affected no one more than Baldwin himself — not Halyna Hutchins’s husband, not her little boy, so traumatized after her death he couldn’t speak for days, but Alec freaking Baldwin.

Think that’s overstatement? Let me count the ways: Gallivanting through the Hamptons and Vermont, just days after the shooting, Baldwin shopping at Ralph Lauren and preening before the paps — you know, the ones he otherwise hates and physically attacks — so they could get the perfect shot of Baldwin, inside a gleaming restaurant, holding his head in his hands. The bizarre roadside presser with his fake Spanish wife, the Rachel Dolezal of the Hamptons, in which he claimed the “Rust” set was run by “a very, very well-oiled crew” who just had the bad luck to suffer this “one in a trillion” tragedy.

Callahan goes on to say that Baldwin and his wife believe that he is “above the law and any consequences.” She predicts that the actor will still face “criminal charges, jail time, and the loss of all his money in civil litigation.”

She makes a good point in saying that Baldwin, being a producer of the film, bears a larger measure of responsibility than any random actor who was unknowingly handed a “hot” weapon. Civil litigation against Alec Baldwin is already underway from several directions and he could definitely wind up paying a steep price in cash. But what charges carrying jail time could be brought by the District Attorney? The only thing that comes to mind is negligent homicide at most. But even then, there’s a stiff hill to climb when it comes to making that charge stick. In reality, Baldwin’s crew violated industry standards and best practices, not any actual laws that I’m aware of.

It’s hard to say when we’ll reach the end of this road because the District Attorney may still require significant time to complete the investigation. When they do, though, we should learn whether the entire criminal aspect of this tragedy is over or if Alec Baldwin will spend years in a court battle over the shooting.

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