Alec Baldwin Says His Contract Excuses Liability in ‘Rust’ Shooting Death

Baldwin is claiming in an arbitration demand against his fellow ’Rust’ producers that he’s in no way responsible for the fatal gunplay

Lawyers for Alec Baldwin filed an arbitration demand against his fellow Rust producers Friday, claiming that his contract lets him off the hook for any financial responsibility in the fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins last October. They also contend that the rest of the Rust team should cover Baldwin’s legal bills.

According to the filing, Baldwin says that although he fired the deadly rounds while practicing his cross-draw on the doomed western, he’s not responsible for Hutchins’ death because he was told there was no live ammunition in the Colt .45 revolver. Additionally, Baldwin—who’s facing several lawsuits over the incident—says it wasn’t his job to check if the gun in his hands contained live rounds, the New York Times reports.

“She directed Baldwin to hold the gun higher, to a point where it was directed toward her,” the filing states. “She was looking carefully at the monitor and then at Baldwin, and then back again, as she gave these instructions. In giving and following these instructions, Hutchins and Baldwin shared a core, vital belief: that the gun was ‘cold’ and contained no live rounds.”

Next, Baldwin claims he asked Hutchins if she wanted him to pull back the hammer, as per the script, and she said yes.

“Baldwin then pulled back the hammer, but not far enough to actually cock the gun,” the arbitration demand continues. “When Baldwin let go of the hammer, the gun went off.”

Baldwin told ABC in January that he “didn’t pull the trigger,” but gun experts know that an old-fashioned, single-action revolver like the one that killed Hutchins can be discharged just by letting go of the hammer after it has been cocked, or even with a sharp, accidental jolt.

But Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, hopes such technicalities won’t need to be discussed in a courtroom because he says a clause in the actor’s contract with Rust Movie Productions L.L.C. frees him from all financial responsibility for legal fees or claims arising out of the Hutchins’ death. The filing, with the JAMS private arbitration service, seeks to enforce the clause, the Times reports.

“Someone is culpable for chambering the live round that led to this horrific tragedy, and it is someone other than Baldwin,” Nikas wrote in the claim. “This is a rare instance when the system broke down, and someone should be held legally culpable for the tragic consequences. That person is not Alec Baldwin.”

The arbitration demand also tries to further distance Baldwin from the tragedy, stating that although he was an Executive Producer on the film with some creative input, it was other people who controlled the money and made hiring decisions. Baldwin says he gave back his $100,000 producer fee, calling it an “investment.”

The filing also cites comments allegedly made by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell immediately after the shooting as evidence of Baldwin’s clean hands.

“You realize you’re not responsible for any of what happened in there, don’t you?” Mitchell is quoted as saying. As far as corroborating witnesses go, however, Baldwin’s team might want to keep moving down their list. Mitchell filed a lawsuit of her own against Baldwin and the rest of the producers in November, blaming Baldwin for not checking the .45 for live ammo before he started practicing his draw.

Reps. for Rust Movie Productions L.L.C. and Mamie Mitchell did not respond to requests for comment from the Times.

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