Legal experts believe Alec Baldwin should have given his televised interview a second thought before speaking out.
On Thursday night, the actor gave his first sit-down since the Oct. 21 shooting on the set of the Western film “Rust.” The 63-year-old told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he did not pull the trigger on a prop gun he was holding on a New Mexico film set when it went off, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Authorities have said Baldwin was told the gun was safe to handle but continue to investigate how a live round ended up in the weapon.
Rachel Fiset, the managing partner of Los Angeles-based Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman, told Fox News that while Baldwin felt it was necessary to speak out following the tragedy in a public format, his comments about the active investigation could potentially be used against him.
This image released by ABC News shows actor-producer Alec Baldwin, left, during an interview with ‘Good Morning America’ co-anchor George Stephanopoulos. The hour-long interview about the fatal shooting on the set of Baldwin’s film ‘Rust’ aired Thursday night.
This image released by ABC News shows actor-producer Alec Baldwin, left, during an interview with ‘Good Morning America’ co-anchor George Stephanopoulos. The hour-long interview about the fatal shooting on the set of Baldwin’s film ‘Rust’ aired Thursday night. (Jeffrey Neira/ABC News via AP)
“Alec Baldwin is clearly devastated by the tragic accidental killing of Ms. Hutchins,” she 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 pointed out. “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.”
Like Fiset, litigator Molly Mauck of New York City-based law firm Romano Law told Fox News that the televised interview was a risky move that could cause more harm than good as the investigation continues.
“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,” she explained. “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.”
During the interview, Baldwin said, “I didn’t pull the trigger. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.”
At one point, Baldwin broke down in tears as he described Hutchins, 42. Director Joel Souza was also wounded.
In response to a question about how a live round ended up on the set, the star replied, “I have no idea. Someone put a live bullet in a gun, a bullet that wasn’t even supposed to be on the property.”
Former assistant U.S. attorney Neama Rahmani, president and co-founder of Los Angeles-based West Coast Trial Lawyers, called the interview “a mistake.”
Several legal experts said Alec Baldwin’s televised interview during an active investigation was “a mistake.”
Several legal experts said Alec Baldwin’s televised interview during an active investigation was “a mistake.” (Jim Spellman/Getty Images)
“Baldwin says he didn’t pull the trigger, but that doesn’t absolve him from civil and potential criminal liability,” he explained. “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.”
“From a legal perspective, Baldwin’s interview was a mistake,” he shared. “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.”