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First Suit Filed Over Alec Baldwin Shooting Amid Sabotage Charge

The famous gun-control-loving actor and his movie business are looking down the barrel of massive civil liability while alleged criminal conduct is probed.

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Articles, Law

The chief lighting technician on Alec Baldwin’s movie Rust has filed a civil lawsuit accusing Baldwin and others of negligence.  Serge Svetnoy says he was struck by “discharge materials” when Baldwin shot a live cartridge during a rehearsal on the set that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Svetnoy says he held Hutchins in his arms as she lay dying on the movie set after the October 21 incident in New Mexico. The suit was filed in California state court, and names Baldwin personally and various corporate entities involved and asks for compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants.

Stranger Than Fiction

GettyImages-1349421389 Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office

(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

A press release from the Sante Fe County Sheriff, the investigating agency, named only Mrs. Hutchins and the film’s director Joel Souza, as shot by Baldwin. The gun used in the shooting was set up by Hannah Gutierrez, the film’s armorer, and handed to Baldwin by Dave Halls, the assistant director, according to a police affidavit. In a twist fit for a movie plot, Ms. Gutierrez’s attorney, Jason Bowles, said, “We are convinced that this was sabotage and Hannah is being framed.”

Mr. Svetnoy’s trauma was particularly acute as he was close friends with Mrs. Hutchins, who he held as she expired. The suit calls them “comrades in arms” who worked on nine films together over the past five years. Svetnoy is a gaffer. In film and television, that’s the chief lighting technician and head electrician, responsible for the execution (and sometimes the design) of the lighting plan for a production. His complaint alleges Baldwin and the others “failed to perform their responsibilities and violated the most basic of industry standards governing the use and maintenance of firearms and ammunition.”

Hot Mess

(Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

Mr. Baldwin was practicing cross-drawing while seated when he discharged the firearm and sent the fatal bullet into Mrs. Hutchins. Properly constructed, the scene would feature look-alike cartridges without propellant or a primer. “Bullet” is a term often used in place of “cartridge.” Modern firearms discharge a bullet, one component of a cartridge, which is a name for the bullet contained in a casing, with gunpowder and a primer. The firing pin strikes the primer creating a hot spark that ignites the gunpowder, producing an explosion that propels the bullet through the barrel.

The gun in question was a revolver, and when a person or camera is looking down the business end of a loaded revolver, the bullets in the cylinder are visible. To look at a gun pointed at the viewer and produce this view safely, inert cartridges without primers or powder are used. The suit says, “No live ammunition was to be used during the filming of this movie.” When fired for effect on film, the guns were to use blanks, or cartridges that did not contain any bullet projectile.

The sabotage allegations are based on a theory that labor union tensions led to the live cartridge being placed in a box that should have only contained inert ones. Several production members walked off the film on the same day as the shooting, protesting pay and working conditions. Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said there was no proof that someone deliberately put a live round into the gun. She said investigators still had no idea how live rounds made their way to the set and that the probe could take months to complete.

Read more from Scott D. Cosenza. 

Read More From Scott D. Cosenza, Esq.

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