8:48 AM PT -- Alec Baldwin's attorney, Luke Nikas, released a statement saying, "This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win."
Alec Baldwin will be prosecuted for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on his "Rust" movie set.
Prosecutors in Santa Fe County, NM made the announcement Thursday morning that Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter. The film's head armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. Both face a maximum of 5 years in prison if convicted.
The Assistant Director, Dave Halls, has agreed to a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. He will get a suspended sentence and 6 months probation.
Interestingly ... no charges will be filed in connection with the non-fatal shooting of director Joel Souza, who was hit in the shoulder by the same bullet that killed Halyna.
Attorney Brian Panish, who represents the Hutchins family, tells TMZ, "We want to thank the Santa Fe Sheriff and the District Attorney for concluding their thorough investigation and determining that charges for involuntary manslaughter are warranted for the killing of Halyna Hutchins with conscious disregard for human life."
Panish goes on ... "Our independent investigation also supports charges are warranted. It is comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law. We support the charges."
It's interesting ... Halyna's widow, Matthew Hutchins, settled with Baldwin and the production and actually became an Executive Producer on the film.
In announcing the charges, the special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, who was appointed by the D.A., said, "The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the 'Rust' film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don't take our State's commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously."
Reeb said, "If any one of these three people - Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls - had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It's that simple."
Alec has all along denied any wrongdoing, insisting all he did was follow instructions during a rehearsal where he was practicing how to position the pistol for a "cross draw" scene in a chapel ... as director Joel Souza and Halyna figured out camera angles.
He's also repeatedly said assistant director Dave Halls handed him the prop firearm and said it was a "cold" gun -- meaning it was unloaded and safe -- when he handed it to him.
While the film's lead armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was not in the chapel, Alec has suggested she bears some responsibility ... as it was her job to prepare and check the props.
Alec was visibly torn up on set immediately after Halyna was shot. However, in subsequent interviews he went on the defensive, saying it was a tragic accident for which he bore no responsibility. He also insisted he did NOT actually pull the trigger on that fateful day.
The FBI disagreed with Alec's assertion ... after testing the weapon, it issued a report which concluded the pistol would not fire without someone pulling the trigger.
Halyna's death was eventually ruled to be accidental -- the medical examiner found no intent to cause harm in their official report.
Still, Halyna's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Alec and others involved in the production, saying he directly caused her death and that he was negligent in his handling of the gun -- not to mention safety protocols on the set.
They ultimately settled the lawsuit in October, and agreed to complete filming "Rust."
Alec also sued four crew members -- Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, Sarah Zachry and Seth Kenney - claiming they failed to safeguard the film set.
Originally Published -- 8:03 AM PT