The Santa Fe district attorney on Monday defended the appointment of a state lawmaker to prosecute Alec Baldwin in the “Rust” case, saying there is no reason she cannot fulfill both roles.
Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed both face involuntary manslaughter charges in the October 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. They are scheduled for a virtual court appearance on Thursday.
Baldwin’s lawyers are seeking to disqualify the special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, arguing that she cannot serve as both a prosecutor and a member of the state Legislature under the separation-of-powers provision of the state constitution.
In her response, D.A. Mary Carmack-Altwies argued that local prosecutors occupy a “quasi-judicial office.” Therefore, she said, they are not part of the executive or the judicial branches, and are not foreclosed from serving in the Legislature.
Baldwin’s lawyers contend that Reeb could have a political incentive to pursue charges, and that her dual role raises the prospect of improper encroachment between branches. But Carmack-Altwies argued that the potential conflicts cited by Baldwin’s lawyers are “purely hypothetical.”
In February, the state House of Representatives voted to approve a state budget that includes $360,000 for the “Rust” prosecution, including Reeb’s salary. Reeb recused herself from the vote. The budget is now pending in the state Senate.
Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for the D.A.’s office, said that Reeb opted not to vote “out of an abundance of caution and to ensure that her record of unimpeachable public service continues.”
Reeb was elected to the House in November. During her campaign, in September, Reeb received a $250 contribution from attorney Lisa Torraco, who represents David Halls.
Halls is the first assistant director on “Rust” who has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for negligent handling of a gun. Halls’ investigator, W. Dennis Maez, also gave $500 to Reeb’s campaign in June, before she was appointed to handle the “Rust” case.
The Torraco contribution was first reported by KOAT, an Albuquerque TV station. Torraco told the station that she supports a lot of conservative women, and did not think the contribution played any role in Halls’ plea deal.
But she also said she was surprised that Reeb stayed on the case after she won her election. Asked about the Maez contribution by Variety, Torraco said in an email, “This is EXACTLY why she can’t run & hold a legislative office AND be special prosecutor at the same time! She has many appearances of impropriety.”
Maez defended Reeb in an email, calling her “one of the most trustworthy, above reproach, honest, and ‘by the book’ attorneys I’ve ever known.”
Maez worked as the government’s investigator for Reeb when she prosecuted the sheriff of Rio Arriba County.
“Anyone who thinks that Andrea Reeb would be influenced by $250 or $500 or any amount of money in a campaign contribution is so far out in another galaxy that even the mere suggestion is beyond ludicrous,” Maez wrote. “I’d also take with a grain of salt those individuals that are using this tragedy to further their 15 minutes of fame by getting their face on TV or seeing their name in print commenting about if Andrea should recuse herself, all of that stuff is more background noise and more nonsense.”
The D.A.’s office has also denied any impropriety.
Halls was initially scheduled to enter his plea on Wednesday, but the plea hearing was delayed until March 29 because Torraco is in a trial. He is expected to get six months of probation, but will not receive jail time.
Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed face up to 18 months in prison if convicted. They were initially charged with a five-year sentencing enhancement for discharge of a firearm. But Reeb agreed to drop that enhancement after realizing that it was not in effect at the time of the “Rust” shooting.
Baldwin pleaded not guilty on Feb. 23.