Alec Baldwin on Oct 7, 2021 at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Mark Sagliocco | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
The special prosecutor in the “Rust” manslaughter case against actor Alec Baldwin and a co-defendant stepped down Tuesday after Baldwin’s attorneys argued that New Mexico’s constitution barred her from serving in that role while being a state legislator.
“I will not allow questions about my serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand,” said Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor, in her surprise statement.
Reeb’s decision to recuse herself came after weeks of resistance to that idea by her and First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who appointed her.
And it is the second major setback in the case against Baldwin for the accidental fatal shooting in October 2021 of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust.”
Reeb, who previously served as a district attorney elsewhere in New Mexico, originally charged Baldwin and the original “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed in January with a so-called firearm enhancement. That carried a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence if the defendants were convicted.
But Reeb dropped that enhancement after admitting to Baldwin’s lawyers over email that she incorrectly applied a law that took effect only after Hutchins was killed.
“After much reflection, I have made the difficult decision to step down as special prosecutor in the ‘Rust’ case,” Reeb said in her statement Tuesday “My priority in this case — and in every case I’ve prosecuted in my 25-year career — has been justice for the victim.”
“However, it has become clear that the best way I can ensure justice is served in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on the evidence and the facts, which clearly show a complete disregard for basic safety protocols led to the death of Halyna Hutchins,” she said.
The First Judicial District Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Baldwin’s defense lawyers last month filed a motion asking a judge to remove Reeb from the case.
Those attorneys argued that New Mexico’s constitution explicitly bars people from holding a position in one branch of government while executing the powers of another branch.
Luke Nikas, one of Baldwin’s lawyers, reached by CNBC on Tuesday, did not directly comment on Reeb’s statement.
But Nikas pointed CNBC back to the reasoning from his motion to disqualify Reeb.
In that, he had argued that there was “no question that Representative Reeb is violating both the plain text and the purpose of the New Mexico Constitution’s separation-of-powers provision by serving simultaneously as a legislator and a prosecutor.”
This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.
Join the discussion