Could Alec Baldwin be looking at jail time?
That’s the question many are asking in light of today’s news that the actor will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Oct. 2021 deadly shooting of a cinematographer on the set of “Rust,” the film he was working on and helping produce at the time.
Baldwin had pointed the pistol at Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer, when the firearm went off, though he described the shooting as a “tragic accident” and said he had been informed the gun was safe — meaning it would have only been loaded with blank ammunition.
MarketWatch spoke with Michelle Rosenkranz Suskauer, a criminal attorney with more than 30 years of legal experience and the former president of the Florida Bar, to better understand the charges that Baldwin is facing — and what could result. Here’s what we learned:
What exactly is involuntary manslaughter?
“It’s still a homicide charge,” Suskauer explained, but one that’s not as severe as first-degree murder, where “there’s a premeditated act.” In Baldwin’s case, he’s facing two two involuntary manslaughter charges — one that carries up to an 18-month sentence and the other that carries a mandatory five-year sentence. There are legal distinctions between the two charges, Suskauer explained, but she said the main thing to understand is that one is an “enhanced charge” connected to the fact the incident involved the use of a firearm.
So, Baldwin could be convicted of both charges?
No. Suskauer said if the case went to trial, Baldwin could only be convicted of one of the charges. “The jury will be asked to find him guilty of the most serious charge,” she said.
But the case might not go to trial?
It’s all in Baldwin’s and his legal team’s court. That is, Baldwin could consider a plea bargain. Suskauer said it hinges on what Baldwin’s lawyers find when they review what formed the basis of the charges — meaning the police reports and “all the evidence that will be used against him.” From there, Baldwin and his team will make a determination. If they opt to go to trial, they are “rolling the dice…It’s always risky,” Suskauer said. In that regard, Suskauer added, “Most cases don’t go to trial.”
How long will it take for this to get resolved?
“It’s going to take some time,” Suskauer said. A lot depends on how quickly things move through a particular state’s court system. “If it was California, it would take years,” Suskauer added.
What are the chances that Baldwin could end up in jail?
Suskauer won’t venture a prediction as to what will happen with the case. But she did say the actor may have not helped his cause by speaking publicly about what transpired that day. “I don’t like my clients speaking on camera or to anyone else,” Suskauer said, noting that a client can end up saying something that may incriminate them.
Baldwin “may have literally shot himself in the foot with all his statements,” Suskauer concluded.