Mon, 25 Sep 2023

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Alec Baldwin on Friday lost his attempt to stay a lawsuit filed by the gaffer on the set of the movie "Rust," on which cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was accidentally shot to death by Baldwin in 2021.

A Superior Court judge denied the actor's motion for an indefinite stay, pending a decision by special prosectors in Santa Fe on whether or not to file new criminal charges against Baldwin, who was also a producer on the film.

Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter in January, but the charges were dropped three months later, after evidence emerged that the gun Baldwin was rehearsing with had been modified - raising the possibility that the gun might have gone off without Baldwin pulling the trigger. But a new report commissioned by the special prosecutors in the case, released last month, found the Colt .45 revolver in question would only have fired if the trigger was pulled, opening the door to new charges being filed.

Luke Nikas, Baldwin's attorney, said on Friday that he expects a decision from the special prosecutors soon.

"I've been told the investigation is active," Nikas said during the hearing. "A final decision will be made within approximately two weeks."

"So what are you anticipating happens in two weeks?" asked Superior Court Judge Maurice Leiter.

"I am told there are two possibilities," Nikas said. "A decision to charge, or a decision to dismiss with prejudice. Those are the the options on the table now."

A decision to dismiss with prejudice would mean that Baldwin would never be charged criminally in the accidental shooting.

Lawsuits are often stayed pending criminal proceedings, since a looming trial typically makes it difficult for the accused to comply with discovery and give depositions without risking self-incrimination.

Nikas, who had initially asked the judge for an indefinite stay, asked for a stay of two weeks, awaiting news from Santa Fe. Judge Leiter was reluctant to do that.

"I have to make a decision based on what's filed," the judge said. But, he added, if criminal charges were filed against Baldwin, the actor could re-file his motion to stay the proceedings of the civil suit.

Besides, the judge said, "It's highly unlikely the plaintiff will seek to take his deposition in next three to four weeks."

Svetnoy's attorney, John Upton, said he would agree to not ask Baldwin for any discovery for the next 30 days.

After the hearing, Nikas said in an email, "We're pleased with the court's practical approach, which delayed scheduling next steps in the case and therefore gave us exactly the protection we sought."

The lawsuit, filed by Svetnoy in November 2021, claimed the gaffer was "struck directly by discharge materials from the Colt Revolver," and later suffered "serious emotional distress stemming from the near-death experience of a live bullet streaking past him before claiming the life of his close friend."

A wrongful death suit field by Hutchins' family was settled in 2022. At least three other lawsuits are still pending. As for the movie, the low-budget western resumed production in Montana and was completed in May.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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