Efforts by New Mexico law enforcement officials to pry loose Alec Baldwin’s cellphone have stepped up a notch.
Officials in Santa Fe County have reached out to those in New York State’s Suffolk County to have the phone turned over, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Dec. 16, Santa Fe County Magistrate Judge David Segura approved a search warrant for the phone as part of the investigation into the Oct. 21 shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Baldwin’s movie, “Rust.” Baldwin is a pivotal figure, because he has said he was holding the gun when it fired, but has claimed he did not fire the gun. The gun had a live round in it but was supposed to be empty when the incident took place.
Although Baldwin has said he is “cooperating” with the investigation into the shooting, the phone has yet to be produced.
“The Sheriff’s Office does not have physical possession of the phone,” Santa Fe County Sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said Friday. “The phone is in New York with Mr. Baldwin.”
New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement Thursday that investigators “are actively working with the Suffolk County, New York Sheriff’s Department and Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers, within jurisdictional constraints, to obtain any materials from Mr. Baldwin’s phone that pertain to the ‘Rust’ investigation.”
The search warrant Segura issued could only be enforced in New Mexico. Baldwin has a house in the Hamptons, located in Suffolk County on Long Island.
“The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office has received a request from the Santa Fe, NM authorities requesting assistance in obtaining Alec Baldwin’s phone,” Sergeant Paul Spinella said, according to the New York Post.
“This request has been forwarded to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office to work out the differences in laws between NM and NY. As this is an ongoing investigation, that is all the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office can report at this time,” he said.
In a Dec. 16 affidavit, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office detective Alexandria Hancock said she sought Baldwin’s text messages, emails, contacts, browser history, private messages on social media, as well as his recent call list. Investigators want access to digital images, deleted digital images, passwords and GPS data from the phone.
Hancock wrote that she had “requested Alec’s phone from him, as well as his attorney, and was instructed to acquire a warrant.”
The phone had “several emails and text messages sent and received” regarding the film that she wanted to inspect.
Some experts said Baldwin could have many reasons for not complying with the warrant.
“There could be incriminating evidence on the phone, or it might be for privacy reasons,” said Kevin Kearon, a former Nassau District Attorney’s Office lawyer now a private criminal attorney, according to the New York Post.
“If he deleted text messages or call records then he would face the possibility of criminal contempt,” Kearon said. “Or if there are personal messages, for example, between he and his wife, it’s not shocking that he wouldn’t want them in the public domain.”
“It’s not consistent with his pledge early on to cooperate with law enforcement,” he said. “It certainly looks suspicious to the average person.”
Kearon said the phone may show Baldwin contradicting himself.
“He has said in a [TV] interview he didn’t pull the trigger. He’s made a number of statements that lock him into a corner,” he said.
Baldwin might also want to protect his privacy, said Louis Shapiro, a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles.
“For Baldwin to say, ‘Get a warrant’ might come across as arrogant or not forthcoming but it’s pretty common,” Shapiro said.
“He might be saying, ‘If you want my whole phone that gets into my personal life and I don’t want to pull other people into this,” Shapiro said. “But a warrant could narrowly tailor the case-related information that can be extracted from the phone.”
He added, “The more salacious reason is that there’s something incriminating on the phone.”
Shapiro said investigators will be “looking for [texts saying] ‘Oh my god, I didn’t check the gun’ or ‘I hired someone who’s not competent’ — anything that’s incriminating or that could shed more light and give more context. Or anything that could show the culpability of other people.”
Kearon said Baldwin will have to comply sooner or later.
“Make no mistake: A lawfully issued subpoena that doesn’t get successfully challenged in court must be complied with or he can be charged with contempt,” Kearon said.