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Legal experts on Alec Baldwin's risky ABC News interview: 'It's really a no-upside situation'

Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In his prime-time interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, Alec Baldwin tried to convince the public that he was in no way to blame for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie "Rust."

But the decision to speak on national television during an active criminal investigation, and amid two civil lawsuits, was a highly risky tactic that could compound problems for Baldwin, according to several legal and public relations experts who spoke to the Los Angeles Times.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Neama Rahmani, who is co-founder of the Los Angeles-based firm West Coast Trial Lawyers, called the interview a "mistake" because Baldwin's statements can be used against him in court but will be of no use for the defense.

"It's really a no-upside situation, as far as the legal consequences are concerned," Rahmani said. "His statements can be used against him; everyone knows that. But his statements can't be used to help him in lieu of testifying because they're hearsay. As an actor and as a public figure, there are nonlegal reasons to give an interview, but as an attorney, there's no reason you should ever give an interview like that. It can only backfire."

A spokeswoman for Baldwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the interview that aired Thursday, Baldwin said he does not expect to be criminally charged in the matter, though the investigation is ongoing. The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office has been scrutinizing the actions of Baldwin, as well as those of assistant director Dave Halls and armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, during its investigation into the Oct. 21 shooting that killed Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

 

"I've been told by people who are in the know and even inside the state that it's highly unlikely I would be charged with anything criminally," Baldwin said.

But officials have not ruled out charges against Baldwin. New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies on Friday said she has "not made a decision to charge or not charge any individuals involved in the shooting."

"Everyone involved in the handling and use of firearms on the set had a duty to behave in a manner such that the safety of others was protected, and it appears that certain actions and inactions contributed to this outcome," Carmack-Altwies said in a statement.

In the hourlong TV news special, Baldwin, who is also a producer on "Rust," made the case that he should not be blamed for the Oct. 21 incident at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico. He became emotional at times, breaking down in tears when talking about Hutchins and how she was admired by her peers.

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