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In ‘Rust’ trial, Alec Baldwin accused of breaking gun rules; defense blames experts

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By Andrew Hay

SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) -A New Mexico prosecutor on Wednesday said Alec Baldwin broke “cardinal rules” for handling guns in the 2021 killing of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, while his lawyer said he was failed by the movie’s set safety experts who already have been convicted in the case.

The 66-year-old Baldwin, on trial in Hollywood’s first on-set shooting fatality in three decades, took notes at the defense table and listened calmly to opening statements in his involuntary manslaughter trial. The trial is largely unprecedented in U.S. history, holding an actor criminally responsible for a gun death during filming.

A New Mexico jury of 12 and four alternates – 11 women and five men – heard prosecutor Erlinda Johnson outline arguments that Baldwin disregarded safety during filming of the low-budget movie before pointing a gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal, cocking it and pulling the trigger as they set up a camera shot on a set southwest of Santa Fe.

“The evidence will show that someone who played make believe with a real gun and violated the cardinal rules of firearm safety is the defendant, Alexander Baldwin,” Johnson said.

Baldwin’s wife Hilaria Baldwin sat in the second row of the public gallery, his brother Stephen Baldwin in front of her.

His lawyer Alex Spiro pointed to “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez – head of gun safety – and first assistant director Dave Halls – responsible for overall set safety. Both have been convicted in the shooting, and Spiro said they did not check the rounds in the gun to ensure it was safe for Baldwin to use.

“There were people responsible for firearms safety but actor Alec Baldwin committed no crime,” said Spiro.

Hutchins was killed, and director Joel Souza wounded when Baldwin’s reproduction 1873 Single Action Army revolver fired a live round, inadvertently loaded by Gutierrez.

Since a police interview on Oct. 21, 2021, the day of the shooting, Baldwin has argued the gun just “went off.”

In an ABC News interview two months later, Baldwin told George Stephanopoulos he did not pull the trigger. A 2022 FBI test found the gun was in normal working condition and would not fire from full cock without the trigger being pulled.

In a sign the defense was backing away from that position, Spiro said that even if Baldwin pulled the trigger, it was not a crime. He said it was the job of Gutierrez and Halls to safely allow an actor “to wave it, to point it, to pull the trigger, like actors do.”

“On a movie set you’re allowed to pull the trigger, so even if he intentionally pulled the trigger, as prosecutors said, that doesn’t mean he committed a homicide,” said Spiro.

State prosecutors charged Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter in January 2022. They dropped charges three months later after Baldwin’s lawyers presented photographic evidence the gun was modified, arguing it would fire more easily, bolstering the actor’s accidental discharge argument.

Prosecutors called a grand jury to reinstate the charge in January after an independent firearms expert confirmed the 2022 FBI study.

FBI testing broke the gun, and Baldwin’s lawyers will tell jurors that destruction of the weapon prevented them from proving the gun was modified.

© Reuters. Actor Alec Baldwin and attorney Luke Nikas listen during his hearing in Santa Fe County District Court, Wednesday, July 10, 2024, in Santa Fe, N.M. Baldwin is facing a single charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a cinematographer.      Ross D. Franklin/Pool via REUTERS

Armorer Gutierrez, whose job on the set of “Rust” included managing firearms safely, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in March for loading the live round.

Prosecutors will have to persuade jurors Baldwin is also guilty of willful and reckless criminal negligence.

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Hamas says it has not left ceasefire talks after Israeli attacks

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell

CAIRO/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -A senior Hamas official said on Sunday that the Islamist group has not withdrawn from ceasefire talks with Israel after this weekend’s deadly attacks in Gaza that Israel said had targeted the group’s military leader Mohammed Deif.

But Izzat El-Reshiq, a member of the political office of Hamas, accused Israel of trying to derail efforts by Arab mediators and the United States to reach a ceasefire deal by stepping up its attacks in the enclave.

Saturday’s strike in the Khan Younis area of Gaza, in which at least 90 Palestinians were killed, according to local health authorities, has put the ceasefire talks in doubt.

There had been increasingly hopeful signs in recent days that a deal could be reached to halt fighting and return hostages held in Gaza.

Two Egyptian security sources at ceasefire talks in Doha and Cairo said on Saturday that negotiations had been halted after three days of intense talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to convene his close circle of ministers later on Sunday to discuss the talks.

The strike on Saturday which targeted Deif killed Rafa Salama, commander of Hamas’ Khan Younis brigade, the Israeli military said on Sunday, but there was no confirmation about the fate of Deif.

“The strike in Khan Younis was a result of surgical intelligence,” the head of the Shin Bet domestic security service said in a video released by the service from Rafah. He said 25 Hamas operatives who took part in the deadly Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that triggered the war had been killed in the past week.

On Saturday, a senior Hamas official denied that Deif had been killed and the group said Israeli claims were aimed at justifying the attack.

Israel’s military chief said on Sunday in a televised statement that Hamas was concealing the truth about Deif’s fate, but stopped short of confirming whether he was alive or dead.

Israeli forces pressed ahead on Sunday with aerial and ground shelling of several areas across the Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people, most of whom have been displaced by the war.

A strike on a UN-run school in Nuseirat camp, one of Gaza’s eight longstanding refugee camps, killed 15 Palestinians and wounded dozens more, Hamas media and health officials said.

The Israeli military said the site was used as a base for Hamas fighters to attack Israeli forces and said numerous steps were taken to limit the risk of harming civilians, including the use of precise munitions and intelligence.

Residents said two missiles targeted the upper floor of the school, not far from the camp’s local market, usually busy with shoppers, where displaced families have also taken shelter nearby.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli airstrikes on four houses in Gaza City killed at least 16 Palestinians and wounded dozens of others, medics said.

The Gaza health ministry said at least 38,584 Palestinians have been killed and 88,881 others injured in Israel’s military offensive since Oct. 7.

It added that 141 Palestinians were killed by Israeli military strikes across the Gaza Strip in the past day, the biggest one-day death toll in many weeks.

Gaza’s health ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants but officials say most of the dead throughout the war have been civilians.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Palestinians gather near damage, following what Palestinians say was an Israeli strike at a tent camp in Al-Mawasi area, amid Israel-Hamas conflict, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 13, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem/File Photo

Israel says it has lost 326 soldiers in Gaza and says at least a third of the Palestinian fatalities are fighters.

The war began after a Hamas-led attack inside Israel on Oct. 7, that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw around 250 taken hostage to Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.

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Trump rally shooting victim died shielding family from bullets

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(Reuters) -The person shot and killed at former President Donald Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday was a 50-year-old volunteer firefighter who shielded his family to protect them as gunshots rang out, the state’s Governor Josh Shapiro said on Sunday.

The victim was identified as Corey Comperatore, according to his family’s posting on Facebook (NASDAQ:).

“The PA Trump Rally claimed the life of my brother, Corey Comperatore. The hatred for one man took the life of the one man we loved the most,” the victim’s sister said in the post on Sunday.

Comperatore previously served as the chief of the Buffalo Township Volunteer Fire Department, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Shapiro said he had spoken to Comperatore’s family and he relayed parts of the conversation to reporters.

“Corey died a hero. Corey dove on his family to protect them last night at this rally,” Shapiro said. “Corey was the very best of us.”

Comperatore was survived by a wife and two daughters. “Corey was a girl dad,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro added: “Corey was a firefighter. Corey went to church every Sunday. Corey loved his community and most especially Corey loves his family.”

Shapiro described the victim “as an avid supporter of the former president.”

© Reuters. A satellite image around Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump's rally location in Butler, Pennsylvania, U.S.  June 2, 2023.  Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

Trump had just begun his speech at the Pennsylvania rally when the sound of shots rang out and it became apparent that Trump was also injured when a bullet grazed his right ear.

The FBI has identified 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, as the suspect in what the government is calling an assassination attempt on Trump.

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Google parent close to $23 billion deal to buy cybersecurity startup Wiz, WSJ reports

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(Reuters) – Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:) is in advanced talks to acquire cybersecurity startup Wiz for roughly $23 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.

A deal could come together soon, assuming the talks don’t fall apart, the report added.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Small figurines are seen in front of displayed Alphabet logo in this illustration taken February 11, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Ilustration/File Photo

Google and Wiz did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.

The U.S.-Israeli startup raised $1 billion in a private funding round in May, which values the four-year-old cloud cybersecurity company at $12 billion.

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