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U.S. Coast Guard Tracking Suspected Russian Spy Ship Near Hawaii; New Zealand PM Announce Resignation, Cites Burnout; Alec Baldwin To Face Involuntary Manslaughter Charge Over Film Shooting. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: In this deadly film -- deadly films that shooting, this -- the prosecutor is Speaking to CNN. Her first live interview is next.

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BOLDUAN: The Coast Guard now says that it is tracking a suspected Russian spy ship off the coast of Hawaii. It's still technically in international waters, but attention, of course, that very clear and real it exists between the United States and Moscow, have officials closely monitoring their movements. Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon for us. He has more on this. Oren, what are you hearing there?

[11:35:11]

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this isn't nearly as uncommon as many would believe, a foreign flag military vessel essentially hanging out off of the U.S. Coast in international waters gathering whatever intelligence it can. Now, whatever it can observe, whatever signals it can see. And in this case, it's a rushing ship that the Coast Guard has been monitoring for several weeks now. The Coast Guard says it is often that you'll see a foreign flag military vessel loitering and operating in its area, in what it watches, off the coast of Hawaii.

Of course, as you point out, what's notable here is the timing. First, the Coast Guard says they've been monitoring this specific Russian ship, which they suspect to be a Russian spy ship for several weeks now, amid the higher tensions between Washington and Moscow. We have seen the Russians do this before. For example, just a few years ago, there was a Russian spy ship off the east coast.

In that case, there was a difference because DoD said at the time, it was operating in an unsafe manner, running without its lights, not responding to commercial vessels that were simply trying to avoid some sort of interaction or some sort of collision between ships there. And that's when this becomes something bigger. Instead of just interaction, it can rise up to go through military channels or even diplomatic channels.

And we've seen the U.S. do things like this as well. For example, just a few weeks ago, there was a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft that was intercepted over the South China Sea by a Chinese fighter jet. Again, normally this happens. The exception, in that case, was that the U.S. said it was the Chinese that conducted an unsafe maneuver. And again, that's where you see these rays through military and diplomatic channels.

So, certainly, something to watch, Kate. And the Coast Guard does monitor these Russian ships when they are in international waters off the U.S. coast. And they'll continue to keep an eye on this to see if it goes anywhere other than where it is right now.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Oren, thank you.

So, it was a big surprise overnight. New Zealand's youngest-ever Prime Minister announcing that she is resigning after leading her country for five years. I want to play for you part of what the prime minister said in this announcement.

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JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER Of NEW ZEALAND: I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have. But also, one of the more challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank. We give all that we can for as long as we can, and then it's time. And for me, it's time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: A prime minister says she will be leaving office by February 7.

We're going to return to our -- more on our breaking news that we've learned this hour. The prosecutor who announced charges against Alec Baldwin speaks to CNN in her first live interview. That's next.

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[11:42:09]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BOLDUAN: Now, back to the breaking news. Prosecutors in New Mexico have just announced that actor Alec Baldwin and the armorer on the film, Rust, will both be charged with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the fatal movie set shooting back in October of 2021. The film's cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed, the film's director was injured.

Josh Campbell is back with us from Santa Fe. He's with Santa Fe's district attorney and this is her first TV interview since the charging decision. Josh?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, thanks. I'm here with the district attorney. Madam District Attorney, thank you for speaking with us.

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Thanks.

CAMPBELL: I just want to start. How did you come to this prosecutor's decision?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Well, along with my special prosecutor, we got the report from the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, we initiated an extensive review of that, and I will say that it was a -- it was a well-investigated case. But we had some follow-up that we had to do, had to speak with some experts. And once we read through everything and research the case law and the law here in New Mexico, we realized that we believe that there was probable cause to charge Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter.

CAMPBELL: And what were some of the key pieces of evidence that you use that factored into that decision?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Well, that there was such a lack of safety and safety standards on that set. That there were live rounds on set. They were mixed in with regular dummy rounds. Nobody was checking those or at least they weren't checking them consistently.

And then they somehow got loaded into a gun, handed off to Alec Baldwin. He didn't check it. He didn't do any of the things that he was supposed to do to make sure that he was safe or that anyone around him was safe. And then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and he pulled the trigger.

CAMPBELL: You talked about the safety on the set was -- as part of your investigation. Was there one thing that was done or one thing that was said that sealed it for you that this should be prosecuted?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: No, actually. I think it was the totality of the circumstances that this was a really fast and loose set and that nobody was doing their job. There were three people. That if they had done their job that day, this tragedy wouldn't have happened. And that's David Halls, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, and Alec Baldwin. If they had just done their basic duties, this -- we wouldn't be standing here.

CAMPBELL: Can you help our viewers understand? So, this -- state officials did a report it was signed by the Chief Medical investigators saying that there was no compelling evidence that this was intentional, right?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Right.

CAMPBELL: So, help our viewers understand if it's an accident, which most people seem to think it is, why is that a crime?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Because -- just because it's an accident doesn't mean that it's not criminal. Our involuntary manslaughter statute covers unintentional killings, unintentional homicides, the rest of our homicide statutes cover intentional. But unintentional means they didn't mean to do it. They didn't have the intent to kill. But it happened anyway. And it happened because of more than mere negligence, because of the extra -- they didn't exercise due caution or circumspection. And that's what happened here.

[11:45:09]

CAMPBELL: And what's your response to, you know, there might be people in Baldwin's camp who say that you were overcharging this?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Well, we disagree. And we're going to be taking that in front of a judge and allowing the judge to decide on probable cause. But we think that there is enough there -- more than enough there to move forward on these charges, and possibly to get through the preliminary hearing stage and onto trial.

CAMPBELL: And can you just break down the specific charges? So, I was reading through your announcement, you say that both Hannah Gutierrez- Reed and Alec Baldwin have been charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Right.

CAMPBELL: Can you unpack that? What was that mean?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Well, and those are two counts in the alternative. So, when this goes in front of a jury, the jury could find they're guilty on both, but since they're in the alternative, they will only be sentenced as to one count. The first part of the involuntary that we'll be charging is that they acted without due caution and circumspection. Meaning they weren't just negligent in their duties, but that they were on notice that they had duties and that they should have done or not done something that didn't happen on that set. Meaning they should have checked the bullets, they should have checked the gun, they shouldn't have even been using a live gun that day, they should have been using a rubber or plastic gun. All of these things go together and show that there was just this complacency, lack of care on that set, and it's more than negligence. And I would say it rises to recklessness.

The other is -- goes hand in hand with a misdemeanor -- a petty misdemeanor here in New Mexico called negligent use of a deadly weapon. And that is that someone handled or used or touched a gun in a negligent manner. And if we -- once we show that then that can lead to the second alternative theory of involuntary manslaughter.

CAMPBELL: Does it matter for, you know, an actor obviously, there's been this discussion about safety on sets. The last time I interviewed you, you even mentioned like you were surprised to learn that, you know, the sets operate like this in some circumstances. But if you have an actor with what he or she thinks is a prop gun, not a real gun, is that actual negligence if it turns out that that gun can actually shoot?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: It's more than that. Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they are going to handle that gun, pointed at someone, and pull the trigger. That it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone. And this is really about justice for Halyna Hutchins. We've talked to many actors, A-list and otherwise that have said that they always check their guns, that -- or they have someone check it in front of them.

So, it's not -- an actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor. And that's what's so important is that we're saying here in New Mexico, everyone's equal under the law, everyone has to follow their duties and do what's right, and take that safety into account so that this doesn't ever happen again.

CAMPBELL: And is Baldwin being charged as an actor who is holding the gun or as a producer on the set who was negligent about the safety standards? Can you help describe that?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: He's been charged as both. He was the actor that pulled the trigger, so certainly he's charged as an actor. But also, as a producer, he also had a duty to make sure that the set -- the set was safe. And we know from our investigation that there had been accidental misfires prior to this, that there were people that were complaining about safety on set and so he should have been aware that safety was an issue on set. And then as an actor that day, he should have checked that gun, check those projectiles.

CAMPBELL: I just got more questions for now. Your time is short. Do you expect any type of plea agreement from Baldwin or Gutierrez-Reed? Have those discussions started?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: That's not something I can comment at this time. It's unethical for a prosecutor to talk about plea negotiations or potential plea deals.

CAMPBELL: Were they given the heads up that this was coming?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Yes.

CAMPBELL: They were.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: They were.

CAMPBELL: And how did those discussions go?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: We have been in I would say almost constant communication with the opposing party's councils for about the last six weeks. They didn't know exactly what was coming but they were aware that we were contemplating charges, and they were aware of what the contemplated charges were/

CAMPBELL: And just two more questions. So, what happens next? So once these charges are filed, I assumed it was tomorrow, right? Is that the plan or --

CARMACK-ALTWIES: It will be before the end of this month.

CAMPBELL: Before the end of this month? So, then what happens? Are these defendants then required to come back to New Mexico, or will they be placed under arrest? How does that work?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: No. We will not be asking for an arrest. In typical cases in this county, the way that we handle it is we'll send out what's called a summons. From that, the court will set what's called a first appearance or it's basically an arraignment. And at that point, they will either have to come here or they might do a video arraignment, we have been doing those since COVID, and they will get their conditions of release and enter not guilty pleas.

CAMPBELL: And finally, last time, you and I spoke, which was right after this tragic incident occurred, you told me that you know that there was pressure out there, people either wanting to charge, people not wanting you to charge. One thing you said was, you know, there's pressure, you do not feel that pressure, and you will follow the facts and the prosecution decision will be made on the facts.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Right.

[11:50:02]

CAMPBELL: That was at the beginning of the case. Do you -- do you still feel the same now looking backward is, you know, this obviously got international attention? Can you just talk about that? What was it like trying to conduct this investigation, and was it done in this consistent manner throughout?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Oh, absolutely. Of course, I knew there was pressure. Of course, I knew that people had feelings one way or the -- or another. But that happens in every single case. And what's important to me as a prosecutor is treating everyone equally under the law and getting justice for the victims. And so, that pressure did not affect me in any way whatsoever. This was a decision based on the facts and the evidence.

CAMPBELL: Madam District Attorney, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Thank you.

CAMPBELL: Kate, I will throw it back to you. Obviously, a major decision here that we've been waiting for, in this case. Now, actor Alec Baldwin as well as the armorer on set charged with involvement -- involuntary manslaughter.

BOLDUAN: Josh, while you have the DA, I know she's short on time, she said something in there that I wanted to see if you could ask her really quick. She said that Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger. Baldwin told ABC he was adamant he did not pull the trigger. She is confident Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger?

CAMPBELL: Yes. So, my colleague, Kate, is asking. So, Baldwin has said that he didn't pull the trigger. Obviously, we know the FBI report says that that gun could not have gone off, cocked without pulling the trigger. Are you confident that he actually pulled the trigger?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Yes, absolutely. The FBI lab is one of the best in the world. And we absolutely believe that the trigger had to have been pulled in order for that gun to go off. The trigger was pulled.

CAMPBELL: So, that your assessment is based on that FBI analysis at Quantico looking at the gun itself and how it operated?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: That's right. And that's one of the reasons that this investigation did take a long time. We were waiting on that trying to make sure we had all of the evidence and were able to gather absolutely everything and we were sure of these charges before we filed them.

CAMPBELL: All right. Thank you, Ma'am. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Josh, does she know how that live round got on that set?

CAMPBELL: Yes. And one question which we've had is do you know how the live round actually got on the set?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: We don't and we might not ever know the answer to that question. And I do believe that's a bit of a red herring. The point is live rounds were there and they weren't checked. They should have been caught. Three people should have been -- should have been checking those projectiles and should have caught them.

CAMPBELL: But that was a major decision in your -- in your determination to actually charged here.

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Correct.

CAMPBELL: OK. And do you think that -- I mean, you know, obviously, you look at the facts of this case. But you know, you mentioned before our -- surprise, you were to see the lack of safety on this set. Are you also trying to maybe send a message to other, you know, people out there making movies that look, there will be consequences? Is that part of your decision?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: Absolutely. In New Mexico, we want you to come here, we want you to feel movies, but we want you to do it safely. And we certainly want to get justice for anyone that is -- that is a victim. Like in this case, we want to get justice for Halyna Hutchins.

CAMPBELL: All right. Yes, and that is key. Obviously, we've been hearing, Kate, that there was a victim in this case, which we have to remember, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, you know. Although this appears to be an accident, she lost her life in the sense to that, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Josh, thank you very much for the great interview. And thank you -- please thank the district attorney for us because I know she doesn't have any IFP. So, thank you both very, very much.

Joining me now because there's a lot to go through now, this -- now hearing from the district attorney herself. Back with me, Elliot Williams, Chloe Melas, and Dutch Merrick. Elliott, what's your reaction to what you just heard from the DA?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: OK, so I heard three big things there, Kate. Number one, the notion that accidents can be criminal. Look, accidents happen all the time. People get injured all the time without any civil or criminal liability. But sometimes some accidents are regarded in the law as so egregious that somebody ought to be charged with the crime and go to jail. And she made that point and was very explicit about it, so when accidents being criminal.

Two. Another thing she said. She sorts of talked a lot about it was -- things were fast and loose on the set. And they failed to carry out their, what, the terms she used were basic duties to secure the set and ensure that dangerous weapons or anything that might hurt somebody was secured. And she made that point. This gets back to the point we were talking about earlier on negligence, where people have a duty to ensure that they are behaving in a manner as other reasonable people would or should behave in the same circumstance.

And finally, and this is a big one, she noted that people complained on the set. And there were reports that a number of staff on the set had left shortly before this shooting. And one of the things that they'd complained about were the conditions for safety for crew and actors on set. That's a point that certainly played into criminal charges given that the actors and or producers and again, she noted that Alec Baldwin is both, were on notice that there might have been hazards on set. So, a number of things that you know, she's speaking prosecutors speak, but really bolstering all of her charges for and how she got to manslaughter, killing someone in an accidental death.

BOLDUAN: Very interesting, Chloe. you have statements in now from Alec Baldwin, what is he saying?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Kate, so I have a statement from Alec Baldwin's attorney that they just sent to me. This is how it reads. "This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins's tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges and we will win."

[11:55:19]

Kate, I've told you that when I sat down with Alec Baldwin over the summer, he was adamant that he did not pull the trigger. I just pulled some of what he told me over the summer when we -- when we sat down. He said I pulled the hammer all the way back without locking it and the gun went off. I've never played with a gun. I never took a gun and pointed it at somebody and click the thing. I never pulled the trigger on a gun aimed at someone in my life. And you could probably find countless people that would testify to that fact.

So, I mean, just based on the statement that we just got moments ago from Alec Baldwin's attorney, we know that he is going to fight this. We know that he will not take a plea deal and that he will see this through to a jury trial. And we are still waiting to hear from Baldwin himself, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Chloe, thanks for bringing us that. Dutch, I want your reaction to everything that we heard, the description that the DA just laid out of the kind of how it was played, kind of fast and loose. I think she said that complacency is a word that she used on the set. What's the impact -- now that we have these charges coming, what is the impact do you think going to be on the industry?

DUTCH MERRICK, PROP MASTER: Well, complacency on that set is clear. When you look at the photographs of how the prop truck was handled, it was -- it looked like the truck had been tipped over. Nothing was organized the way that carts were just strewn about. In that low- budget show, they had cut a lot of corners, didn't have a lot of time, and didn't hold themselves to the standards that most of Hollywood does.

I think the changes that should come about is -- especially the first AD insinuating himself into the situation handling a gun. No first AD I've ever heard of has done that. That was -- that's a royal, royal no. And when it said that -- when the prosecutor said that Baldwin should have checked the gun, that is not the actor's responsibility.

The actor puts a great deal of trust in us, the armorers and the prop department, to make sure that while we make -- we make it look as real as humanly possible, we also make it as safe as possible. And he was assured by a crew person, the first AD in this instance, that that gun was "cold," or didn't have any blanks in it or it wasn't dangerous, and he acted accordingly. So, he may have liability, but he put his trust in our crew and that crew person, the armorer and the AD failed him terribly.

BOLDUAN: Dutch, thank you so much. Elliot, I really appreciate it as well. Thank you. There's a lot -- there's a lot to this and we now just hearing from this district attorney for the first time about the decision to charge, about the long investigation that went into it, and now the legal process kicking in. Alec Baldwin charged with involuntary manslaughter, the armorer on the film set of, Rust, charged with involuntary manslaughter. The district attorney is speaking there with Josh Campbell. And also, this mystery of how that live ammunition got on the set, the DA is saying they may never know. But it also did not have any bearing in terms of her decision to make these criminal charges.

Thank you all very much for being with us. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this quick break.

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