Report says gun Alec Baldwin used in shooting was destroyed but DA denies charge
An attorney for actor Alec Baldwin made the bombshell claim in a New Mexico courtroom during a Thursday hearing that the gun used in the fatal on-set shooting of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021 had been "destroyed" by the state government.
However, a prosecutor soon denied that allegation and made it clear that the firearm still existed as evidence and was available to be reviewed by the defense team, The Hill reported.
The claim for the defense attorney came during an otherwise mundane status hearing in the case that dealt with issues like scheduling, a witness list for the prosecution, and efforts by Baldwin's attorney to remove the special prosecutor assigned to the case.
Gun was "destroyed by the state," attorney claims
Local media outlet KOB4 reported that Baldwin defense attorney Alex Spiro that the firearm at the center of the case, or at least "a great subject of it," had been "destroyed by the state."
"So that’s obviously an issue and we’re going to have to see that firearm, or what’s left of it," he added.
The revolver that Baldwin had pulled during a rehearsal and used to shoot both Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who survived the incident, had been sent to the FBI for a full forensic analysis and was reportedly deemed to have been in working order.
Baldwin has asserted that he never pulled the trigger and that the gun misfired by itself, but the FBI's determination means that the trigger would have had to have been pulled for the gun to fire.
"The gun still exists," prosecutor counters
The bombshell claim from Baldwin's attorney that the alleged murder weapon had been "destroyed" by the state was swiftly countered by state prosecutors after the hearing concluded.
In a statement provided to Fox News, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney, Heather Brewer, said, "The gun Alec Baldwin used in the shooting that killed Halyna Hutchins has not been destroyed by the state. The gun is in evidence and is available for the defense to review."
"The defense's unexpected statement in the status hearing today that the gun had been destroyed by the state may be a reference to a statement in the FBI's July 2022 firearms testing report that said damage was done to internal components of the gun during the FBI's functionality testing," the spokeswoman added. "However, the gun still exists and can be used as evidence."
Extra firearm enhancement penalty dropped
The question about the continued existence of the firearm at the center of the "Rust" shooting case comes just a couple of weeks after New Mexico prosecutors agreed to drop a firearm-related charge from the counts pressed against Baldwin and the film's armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
Both are charged with involuntary manslaughter that, if convicted, would land them behind bars for up to 18 months with a $5,000 fine, and both had also been hit with a firearm enhancement penalty that would have added a mandatory minimum of five years in prison on top of the normal sentence, according to local news outlet KRQE.
The decision to drop the firearm enhancement penalty came after Baldwin's attorneys successfully argued that the penalty was not applicable in this case since the on-set shooting occurred in October 2021 but the enhancement didn't become law until May 2022.
Motion to disqualify special prosecutor
Meanwhile, Law & Crime reported that Baldwin's attorneys are also seeking to have special prosecutor Andrea Reeb disqualified and removed from the case.
They argued that Reeb, who currently serves as a Republican lawmaker in the state legislature, is constitutionally barred from also serving in any sort of role in the state judiciary.
In a motion to disqualify filed with the court, Baldwin's attorneys wrote, "Under Section 1 of Article III of the New Mexico Constitution, however, a sitting member of the Legislature may not 'exercise any powers properly belonging' to either the executive or judicial branch."
A hearing for that particular matter has been scheduled for March 27.