The tragedy of the Alex Baldwin ‘Rust’ shooting case has seen the issue of Big Law billing hit the headlines too as the prosecutors and defense attorneys face off in some fiery exchanges that see Baldwin’s potential time behind bars dramatically shortened.
The Sante Fe District Attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, issued a statement that dropped a charge relating to ‘gun enhancement’ and which the shooting victim, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, was killed.
The enhancement charge carried a mandatory five-year sentence, which means Baldwin now faces 18 months if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The prosecution wasted no time in referencing high billing Biglaw firms in the announcement relating to the dropping of the charges against Baldwin.
Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said the prosecution had dropped the firearm enhancement to “avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys.”
“The prosecution’s priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys,” she said in the statement.
But Baldwin’s lawyers had certainly not shied away from levelling their own criticism of the prosecution as they let rip on the charges against the actor and their repeated references to the year he could spend in jail.
“The prosecutors in this case have committed an unconstitutional and elementary legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a statute that did not exist on the date of the accident,” the 11-page motion filed by his lawyer Luke Nikas of Quinn Emanuel states.
Quinn Emanuel is one of the LawFuel most prestigious law firms and is known as an aggressive litigation firm.
The earlier version of the statute, in effect between July 1, 2020, and May 17, 2022, punished “brandishing” a weapon — defined in the statute as “displaying or making a firearm known to another person while the firearm is present on the person of the offending party with intent to intimidate or injure a person.”
Nikas notes that even the government doesn’t allege that.
“The government’s statement of probable cause contains no allegation that Mr. Baldwin acted ‘with intent to intimidate or injure a person,’ and its description of the alleged conduct makes clear that the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was an accident,” the defense notice states. The motion can be seen on the Law & Crime website.
The version of the firearm enhancement that’s been in effect since May 18, 2022, applies more broadly to the “Use, brandishing or discharge of firearm,”
but Nikas argues that the Constitution forbids applying that retroactively to the shooting.
“Moreover, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor in this case have repeatedly stated to media outlets that Mr. Baldwin is facing many years in prison, while in reality he faces zero to eighteen months, even if this Court concludes at the preliminary hearing that probable cause supports the
involuntary-manslaughter charges,” the notice states.