Charges of involuntary manslaughter against Alec Baldwin over the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins have been formally dismissed by New Mexico prosecutors.
Prosecutors said they were currently unable to proceed with the case, but the decision to dismiss the charges did not “absolve Mr Baldwin of criminal culpability”.
The Hollywood actor had faced two counts of involuntary manslaughter over the shooting on the New Mexico set of the movie Rust in October 2021.
The actor previously pleaded not guilty to both charges of involuntary manslaughter.
On Thursday, newly appointed special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis confirmed they were dismissing both charges.
“Over the last few days and in preparation for the May 3 2023 preliminary hearing, new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis in the case against Alexander ‘Alec’ Rae Baldwin III,” a statement shared with the PA news agency read.
“Consequently, we cannot proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form.
“We therefore will be dismissing the involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr Baldwin to conduct further investigation.
“This decision does not absolve Mr Baldwin of criminal culpability and charges may be refiled. Our follow-up investigation will remain active and on-going.”
The statement said similar charges against Rust’s armourer Hannah Gutierrez Reed remained unchanged.
Earlier, following the announcement by his own legal team that the case had been dismissed, Baldwin seemed to pay tribute to his wife and lawyer.
The Hollywood actor posted a photo of himself and his wife Hilaria Baldwin online.
“I owe everything I have to this woman… (and to you, Luke),” he captioned the photo.
The Hollywood actor has been defended by lawyers Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro throughout proceedings.
“We are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin and we encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident,” the statement read.
The announcement comes less than two weeks before a preliminary hearing in the case in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where it was to be determined whether there was enough evidence to take it to trial.
Santa Fe district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb had previously stepped down from the case.
In turn the district attorney’s office had accused Baldwin of using his “fancy attorneys” to “distract from the gross negligence” in the case.
The actor was formally charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter by the DA in February, alongside Gutierrez Reed.
The first charge required proof of underlying negligence and included the misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a firearm.
The second charge included a firearm enhancement, which would have made the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.
In the statement of probable cause, filed alongside the charges, the DA accused Baldwin of showing “wilful disregard” for the safety of others in the days leading up to the shooting.
His “reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol” directly caused Ms Hutchins’ death, the DA had alleged.
Baldwin also faces a separate civil lawsuit, filed on February 9 by the family of Ms Hutchins.
The family is suing the actor and the Rust movie production company for alleged battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium is a claim which seeks to recover compensation for damage to certain relationships that are mutually dependent.
Thursday’s development coincided with the resumption of production on the movie in the US state of Montana.
Legal representatives for Rust Movie Productions stressed all use of working weapons or ammunition is, “and always has been”, prohibited on set.