Actor Alec Baldwin seemed to be trying to take control of the narrative last week by sitting down for an interview with ABC News about the shooting in New Mexico on the set of film “Rust,” which left cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead and director Joel Souza injured.
But his decision to speak to the media in detail may end up causing more harm than good, some legal experts say.
According to authorities, Baldwin was holding the prop firearm when it went off on Oct. 21. Now, though, the actor claims he did not pull the trigger.
“I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them, never,” Baldwin said in the interview with ABC.
“Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property,” he continued.
Molly Mauck, a litigator at the New York City-based firm Romano Law, said it’s possible that Baldwin’s public comments could be used against him in court.
“It is understandable why Alec Baldwin desires to explain to the press his perception of the events and attempt to control the narrative surrounding the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins,” Mauck told Fox News. “There is, however, risk to speaking before all the facts are known, or the investigations are complete.
“Any statements Mr. Baldwin makes may later be used against him in any potential civil or criminal case stemming from this incident. Similarly, any variations in his accounts of the incident could be later characterized as material inconsistencies and used to attack his credibility at trial.”
Rachel Fiset of Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman, a Los Angeles-based firm, expressed similar sentiments.
“Alec Baldwin is clearly devastated by the tragic accidental killing of Ms. Hutchins,” Fiset said. “He likely feels compelled to speak publicly as a result, and he is sympathetic at times as it relates to the trauma he is experiencing. He is trying to direct the narrative in a way that shifts blame for this tragedy away from him.
“[However], it is never a good idea to speak publicly during an active investigation and this case is no different.”
“Any statements made on television during an investigation could result in unintended admissions that could be used against him later at trial or could prejudice the prosecutor against him,” Fiset went on to add. “If statements relating to facts turn out to be disproved, it will hurt his credibility with law enforcement or at trial. His admissions that someone is to be blamed — but not him — could also potentially be used against him later in either a civil or criminal case if it is determined that he had some responsibility for set safety as a major producer of the film.”
Former assistant U.S. attorney Neama Rahmani wasn’t shy about calling the interview a “mistake.”
“Baldwin says he didn’t pull the trigger, but that doesn’t absolve him from civil and potential criminal liability,” said Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, a Los Angeles-based firm. “Baldwin’s finger should have been nowhere near the hammer or the trigger, even if we are to believe the gun misfired.
“Nor should Baldwin ever point a firearm at another human being, even if cinematographer Halyna Hutchins told him to and he believed it wasn’t loaded or had blanks.”
Rahmani told Fox the interview could “backfire” on Baldwin.
“From a legal perspective, Baldwin’s interview was a mistake,” he said. “His statements can and will be used against him in the civil lawsuits and any potential criminal prosecution. And Baldwin’s attorneys can’t use the interview to help him because his answers are hearsay. At best, the interview was a calculated public relations move that may backfire.”