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Special Prosecutor quits Alec Baldwin case

By Sarah May
|
March 15, 2023

In the latest development in the ongoing manslaughter case involving actor Alec Baldwin, special prosecutor Andrea Reeb has announced her decision to step aside from further participation in the wake of a defense filing seeking her removal, as the New York Post reports.

Andrea Reeb declared that Baldwin's attempts to have her taken off the case and ensuing controversy regarding her role as a state legislator in New Mexico had become too much of a distraction and threatened to take the focus off of what she called “the real issue at hand.”

Baldwin seeks disqualification

As the Post noted separately, back in February, Baldwin – who was officially charged in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in late January – formally filed a request for Reeb to be disqualified from his case.

According to Baldwin's legal team, Reeb's continued involvement in the prosecution was incompatible with her position as a state legislator in New Mexico, a post to which she was elected in November.

In support of that contention, Baldwin's lawyers cited a New Mexico statute explicitly precluding someone serving in the state legislature from simultaneously working as a prosecutor and raised separation of powers concerns.

“Representative Reed is therefore either the executive power or the judicial power, and her service as a special prosecutor is unconstitutional,” lawyers for Baldwin argued in their filing.

Reeb's departure announced

On Tuesday, Reeb preemptively announced her decision to leave the prosecutorial post on her own accord, before the court had a chance to weigh in.

“My priority in this case – and in every case I've prosecuted in my 25-year career – has been justice for the victim,” Reeb began.

Elaborating on the rationale behind the move, Reeb continued, “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.”

Reeb further asserted, “I will not allow questions about my serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand.”

Charge enhancement dropped

Following his January indictment in the death of Hutchins, Baldwin's attorney called the prosecution's decision a “terrible miscarriage of justice,” as Fox News noted at the time.

However, late last month, Baldwin received some good news in that prosecutors in his case dropped a firearm enhancement charge that raised the possibility of a mandatory five-year prison term in the event a conviction was obtained, as the Associated Press noted.

That development came after Baldwin's lawyers argued that adding the enhancement was a violation of their client's constitutional rights because the relevant law was not in effect at the time of Hutchins' death.

“The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a version of the firearm-enhancement statute that did not exist on the date of the accident,” the actor's lawyers declared in a case filing,” and their position was effectively vindicated by the prosecution's decision to drop the charge.

Embarrassing blunder

In making the decision to drop the additional charge, Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said, “In order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor have removed the firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the Rust film set.”

The reversal elicited biting commentary from former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, who told Fox News Digital, “The district attorney has to be embarrassed. Charging a law retroactively is a constitutional violation and something that every first-year law student knows not to do.”

Rahmani continued, saying, “Now she has egg on her face after overcharging the case and grandstanding for the press. She has made one legal blunder after another and may be in over her head.”

That it took several months and a filing from Baldwin's counsel to prompt Reeb to remove herself from the case while – it would seem – knowingly holding legally incompatible governmental roles may further erode the prosecution's credibility, regardless of the actual merits of their case against the actor.