How the Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ shooting prosecution collapsed

The spectacular collapse of New Mexico’s criminal prosecution of Alec Baldwin in the deadly “Rust” movie shooting laid bare nearly three years of errors by state officials who were eager to prove themselves on a world stage.

Legal experts had long said it was a risk to charge Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter, a felony, for the 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, whom the actor accidentally shot while preparing for a scene with a firearm. Baldwin had been told — incorrectly — that his prop gun contained no actual ammunition.

New Mexico First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer threw out Baldwin’s charge late Friday following a day-long hearing in which defense attorneys alleged Santa Fe County deputies and a special prosecutor concealed potential evidence — a bag of bullets an Arizona retired police officer turned in after the incident — that may have proved helpful to Baldwin’s case.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, center, questions special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey, second from left, Friday in Santa Fe, N.M., about evidence not turned over to defense attorney Alex Spiro, second from right, during actor Alec Baldwin’s trial alleging involuntary manslaughter during filming of the movie “Rust.”

(Eddie Moore / Associated Press)

“If this conduct does not rise to the level of bad faith, it certainly comes so near to bad faith to show signs of scorching,” Marlowe Sommer said, directing her scorn at prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey.

Baldwin, who had been facing an 18-month prison sentence if convicted, sobbed as he heard the decision.

Legal experts were stunned at what they said was the prosecution’s botching of the case. “What a catastrophic end to this case for the special prosecutor,” said Santa Fe attorney John Day, who was not involved in the case. “It was a disaster — a complete train wreck.”

Three days into the trial, Baldwin’s high-powered legal team had successfully steered the case away from issues Morrissey wanted to explore, including evidence Baldwin may have pulled the trigger. They focused on an investigation that failed to answer a central question in the “Rust” shoooting: Where did the live rounds originate?

The Baldwin criminal case may have been doomed from the start.

Santa Fe Sheriff's Office Lt. Brian Brandle testifies during the trial

Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brian Brandle testifies during the trial of actor Alec Baldwin on Friday at Santa Fe County District Court in Santa Fe, N.M.

(Ramsay de Give / Associated Press)

Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies arriving at western movie location Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021, were rattled by the mayhem. Two victims lay bleeding on the floor of an old wooden church, Hutchins and director Joel Souza. Armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed appeared to be having a panic attack. Baldwin declined a deputy’s invitation to sit in a patrol car, saying he was smoking a cigarette.

Law enforcement officers were gobsmacked: How could two people filming a movie be shot with a prop gun held by one of Hollywood’s most famous actors?

As journalists from around the world descended on Santa Fe, the sheriff and district attorney projected swagger. The sheriff was preparing for a reelection fight. At a news conference six days after the shooting, Dist. Atty. Mary Carmack-Altwies was asked whether Baldwin might be charged. “All options are on the table,” she told the crowd.

Pressure quickly mounted after Baldwin told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos that he didn’t pull the trigger. Gun enthusiasts howled, saying that gun model doesn’t fire on its own.

The set of "Rust" at Bonanza Creek Ranch has several buildings and vehicles nearby.

Bonanza Creek Ranch one day after Halyna Hutchins died on set.

(Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

By year’s end, sheriff’s detectives had made mistakes that would haunt the case.

The movie’s prop master threw bullets from other actors’ weapons into the trash. The “Rust” prop truck, which held guns and ammunition, wasn’t searched for nearly a week. And it took another month before detectives showed up with a warrant at the Albuquerque prop house of weapons and ammunition provider, Seth Kenney.

The deputies found the military green ammo box they were looking for — Thell Reed, the armorer’s father, told investigators it contained live bullets that may have been the same batch as those on “Rust” — but it was empty.

Baldwin’s team asserted it was Kenney who co-mingled real bullets with dummies — an allegation that Kenney has denied, including while testifying Friday.

Adding another wrinkle, violent tests of Baldwin’s revolver at the FBI Laboratory in Virginia in mid-2022 fractured key gun components.

“I don’t think anyone would say this was a good, clean law enforcement investigation,” Day said. “And the prosecutors compounded the problems with their own missteps and poor judgment calls.”

After more than a year of investigating, the sheriff shipped the case to prosecutors so they could make charging decisions. The D.A. had hired a special prosecutor to help. It looked like a powerful team.

Carmack-Altwies was a progressive Democrat. The first special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, was a Republican who championed gun rights.

But emails between the pair, later turned over to Baldwin’s team, revealed that Reeb had joked that prosecuting Baldwin could boost her state House campaign. To some, the disclosure made it look like Baldwin’s prosecution was politically motivated because many conservatives dislike Baldwin, who lampooned former President Trump on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Further, prosecutors blundered in January 2023 by adding a “gun enhancement” when filing involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed. The enhancement carried a mandatory five-year prison sentence but wasn’t on the books at the time of the “Rust” shooting, forcing prosecutors to scale back.

Reeb stepped down and Carmack-Altwies soon followed. That’s when Morrissey, a respected Albuquerque criminal defense lawyer, dug into the case.

Baldwin’s lead attorney, Luke Nikas, flew to New Mexico. He gave Morrissey evidence that he said showed Baldwin’s gun had been modified before arriving on set, according to court filings. With little time before a pivotal hearing, Morrissey dropped charges against Baldwin.

Attorney Luke Nikas rubs his eyes during actor Alec Baldwin's trial while other people are seated next to him.

Attorney Luke Nikas reacts during Baldwin’s trial for involuntary manslaughter Friday at Santa Fe County District Court in Santa Fe, N.M. The judge threw out the case against Baldwin in the middle of his trial and said it cannot be filed again.

(Ramsay De Give / Associated Press)

The “Rust” star immediately traveled to Montana to finish filming the movie. Meanwhile, Morrissey ordered more tests to determine whether Baldwin’s gun had a hair-trigger, as the defense team suggested.

Arizona gun expert Lucien Haag rebuilt the revolver, and ultimately concluded the gun hadn’t been modified. He was also convinced Baldwin pulled the trigger.

By last summer, tensions between Morrissey and Baldwin’s team were growing. But Morrissey offered Baldwin a deal in October to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor, and receive a suspended sentence. Weeks went by with no answer. Then Morrissey learned Baldwin’s team had shared the plea details with NBC News and planned to sue the state of New Mexico. Baldwin also allegedly pressured a crew member to be interviewed in a documentary Baldwin commissioned about himself, according to an April court filing by the prosecutor.

Morrissey withdrew the offer, sending the case to a grand jury. Baldwin was indicted in January and pleaded not guilty.

The trial, which began Wednesday, was to be the most-publicized court action in New Mexico’s 112-year history. Legal experts saw it as a huge gamble by the prosecution.

“This case clearly should not have been criminally brought,” New York defense attorney Duncan Levin said Thursday. “The shooting was a tragic mistake but mistakes are not crimes.”

It wasn’t long before the case brought by Morrissey and fellow prosecutor Erlinda O. Johnson started to fall apart. Baldwin’s team filed a motion to dismiss the case after the second day of testimony. Marlowe Sommer called an 8:45 a.m. hearing Friday for the lawyers and told the jury to report by 9:30 a.m.

Spiro began Friday’s hearing by accusing Morrissey of signaling directions to her witnesses. Nikas then launched into a litany of alleged evidence violations, stemming from a bag of bullets that Troy Teske, a retired police officer who lives in Arizona, turned over to the Sheriff’s Office in March — potential evidence that was not disclosed to the defense.

Actor Alec Baldwin closes his eyes as he sits between his attorneys.

Actor Alec Baldwin, center, reacts as he sits between his attorneys Alex Spiro, left, and Luke Nikas after the judge threw out the involuntary manslaughter case against him Friday.

(Ramsay de Give / Associated Press)

Morrissey insisted the envelope contained nothing of “evidentiary value” because the bullets remained in Arizona — far from the “Rust” set.

“This defies everything they teach you in law school, and when starting out as a prosecutor,” University of New Mexico law professor Joshua Kastenberg said. “Prosecutors should never determine what evidence is relevant — that’s up to a judge.”

With a stern look, the judge donned blue latex gloves and opened the evidence envelope with scissors.

Marlowe Sommer directed crime scene technician Marissa Poppell to categorize the bullets.

Gasps rippled through the courtroom when it was revealed that three bullets had casings stamped with Starline Brass — the identifying marker of the deadly bullets on “Rust.”

Furious, the judge scrapped the day of testimony and sent home the jurors who had been waiting in a back room. Johnson, the new prosecutor, resigned from the case and took a seat on a bench reserved for the public.

Special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey holds out her hands while standing and looking at a laptop screen in court.

Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey talks about evidence not turned over to the defense during actor Alec Baldwin’s trial Friday.

(Eddie Moore / Associated Press)

The two sides clashed over the value of the Teske bullets. Teske was a former friend of Kenney, the ammo provider, and a current friend of Thell Reed. Baldwin’s lawyers argued the bullets might show a connection to Kenney, one of Morrissey’s main witnesses.

Morrissey disagreed, saying the bullets only pointed to Thell Reed. She has alleged his daughter brought some to the “Rust” set.

The judge also was deeply troubled that sheriff’s deputies logged the Teske bullets under a different case number, not the one for “Rust” evidence, making it impossible for defense attorneys to find on their own.

Marlowe Sommer grilled the lead detective, Alexandria Hancock. The judge asked whether Morrissey had participated in discussions this spring about the Teske bullets.

“Yes,” Hancock said. Louder gasps were heard in the courtroom.

At the end, Morrissey took to the witness stand to defend her conduct in the case. The judge was not swayed.

“There was no excuse for what happened from a prosecutorial standpoint,” Kastenberg said. “The recriminations are just starting.”

Hilaria Baldwin speaks to husband, Alec Baldwin, and wraps her arms around his neck while he looks down.

Hilaria Baldwin, right, speaks to her husband, actor Alec Baldwin, at his trial Friday.

(Ramsay de Give / Associated Press)

“Rust” legal wranglings are not over.

Certain civil lawsuits against Baldwin and the producers, including from Hutchins’ family members, remain unresolved.

“We respect the court’s decision,” said Brian Panish, lawyer for Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, after the judge dismissed Baldwin’s criminal case. “We look forward to presenting all the evidence to a jury and holding Mr. Baldwin accountable for his actions in the senseless death of Halyna Hutchins.”

Actor Alec Baldwin hugs wife Hilaria Baldwin

Actor Alec Baldwin hugs wife Hilaria Baldwin after District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer threw out the involuntary manslaughter case against Baldwin on Friday.

(Luis Sánchez Saturno / Associated Press)

Gloria Allred, who represents the victim’s Ukranian family, added: “The dismissal of the criminal case against Alec Baldwin is in no way, shape or form an exoneration of him.”

Others took a more charitable view, including LeAnn Brightwell, 80, who moved to Santa Fe two years ago from Palm Desert.

“I never thought he was guilty of murder; they shouldn’t have charged him,” Brightwell said. “What a horrific thing to know that you killed someone — that’s punishment enough.”

Horror movie ‘Longlegs’ to clear $20-million domestic box office opening

Neon’s horror movie “Longlegs” is headed toward a better-than-expected domestic box office debut, while Apple’s big-budget romantic comedy “Fly Me to the Moon” is struggling to take off with moviegoers.

Powered by a clever marketing campaign, “Longlegs” is projected to gross more than $20 million in the U.S. and Canada from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates. That would top pre-opening expectations of around $15 million to $18 million for the film about an FBI agent pursuing an occultist serial killer.

The modestly budgeted movie is written and directed by Oz Perkins and stars Maika Monroe, Nicolas Cage and Blair Underwood.

“Longlegs” is poised to become an original horror breakout hit, coming after several underwhelming performers from the typically reliable genre.

The film is expected to land at No. 2 domestically this weekend, coming in behind “Despicable Me 4,” which is anticipating a $44-million second weekend, bringing its U.S.-Canada total to $210 million.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures is releasing Apple’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” a space age rom-com starring Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum. The movie is on track for an opening of about $10 million, a poor showing for a film that reportedly cost $100 million to produce.

The studios are hoping that the Greg Berlanti-directed throwback film has a longer shelf life than most Hollywood movies, on the theory that the movie’s older target demographic typically doesn’t rush out to the theaters on opening weekend.

Sony’s “Anyone But You” opened with soft numbers and ended up with a strong $88.3-million run in U.S. multiplexes, but that movie was working with much smaller production costs, so it had a lower bar for success.

‘Mother, Couch’ review: Surreal family clash is strange ride

Whether it tickles your absurdist heart or tries your sense of narrative logic, there’s one incontestable fact about the Buñuelian dramedy “Mother, Couch”: From start to finish, it’s an original, wholly unpredictable experience. It’s also, by turns, gripping, provocative, head-scratching and disturbing, and is likely to divide viewers with its dreamlike ambitions and metaphorical musings.

Directed and adapted by first-time feature helmer Niclas Larsson, from Swedish author Jerker Virdborg’s 2020 novel “Mamma i Soffa” (“Mom on Sofa”), the well-cast film is set largely in Oakbeds, a cluttered, cavernous, weirdly homey furniture store wherein an 82-year-old woman (Ellen Burstyn), wearing a 1960s-era blond-flip wig and known only as Mother, sits glued to a display couch — and refuses to budge.

We don’t know why (we don’t know a lot of things here) and Mother seems unfazed by her decision to stay put. But it’s really just a springboard for her middle-aged children — the beleaguered David (Ewan McGregor), the jaunty Gruffudd (Rhys Ifans) and the hostile, chain-smoking Linda (Lara Flynn Boyle) — to gather and figure out how to get their defiant mother up and out of there before the store closes, perhaps for good.

Salesperson Bella (Taylor Russell of “Waves”), the daughter, we’re told, of Oakbeds’ erratic twin owners, Marcus and Marco (F. Murray Abraham, in a dual role), acts as the sort of heart or conscience of the piece as she tries to help David and his siblings solve their conundrum. But her conduct and motives soon become as nonlinear as so much else in the story. That’s not a bad thing; it just adds to the movie’s deeply surreal, eccentric quality.

The three estranged half siblings (they each had different fathers) share lots of troubling family history, not the least of which involves their difficult mother. Now that David, Gruffudd and Linda are thrown together, they may have an outside chance to repair their fractured relationship. But David has been damaged and, in a purgative rant, takes his shot at setting some things straight, particularly about the unanswered childhood letters he wrote to his older brother and sister. It’s a harrowing scene and McGregor, who’s superb and often heartbreaking throughout, is especially powerful here.

David is also forced to face some harsh truths from his mother about her own life, her disdain for parenting and her disappointments in love. If we weren’t entirely sure before, Mom confirms her place as a selfish, manipulative, perhaps irredeemable force. And the legendary Burstyn, now 91, tears into her thorny part with unapologetic conviction. She remains a master at work.

As if David didn’t have enough on his plate, he’s also juggling the demands of his wife (Lake Bell) and two small children. But his frantic moments with them away from his mother and siblings feel more tacked on for pressure’s sake than because they inform or help clarify the story’s primary thread. And it’s there that the film loses a bit of momentum.

As is often the case with real-life dreams and nightmares, the North Carolina-filmed tale slowly but steadily spins into more increasingly bizarre and enigmatic territory. It all leads to a tense, impressively shot and mounted climax that gives us perhaps the most pointed window into the film’s familial theme (essentially, the need to let go), even if much is still left open to interpretation.

Larsson manages his starry ensemble and the picture’s hall-of-mirrors-like actions and interactions with confidence and vision, making him a filmmaker to keep an eye on. It’s a singular debut.

For some, “Mother, Couch” should prove a haunting and thought-provoking watch, one that may even inspire a repeat look to better sort out the film’s illusory puzzle pieces. But less patient and adventurous viewers may be cautioned, though not necessarily encouraged, to sit this one out.

‘Mother, Couch’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Playing: Opens July 12 at Landmark Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles

Where did the ‘Rust’ bullet come from? A dramatic turn in Alec Baldwin’s trial

During Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial, the actor’s lawyers sought to shift focus away from whether he pulled his gun’s trigger in the accidental shooting that killed a cinematographer on the set of the movie “Rust” and onto another key question: Where did the lethal bullet come from?

Baldwin’s attorneys have repeatedly accused law enforcement officers and prosecutors of bungling the case, including by allegedly hiding evidence that could possibly solve the central mystery surrounding the deadly Oct. 21, 2021, shooting of Halyna Hutchins.

New Mexico First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer sent the jury home for the day Friday morning after a dramatic hearing in which Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas demanded the case be dismissed, pointing to possible evidence related to the origin of the live ammo.

Baldwin’s attorneys accused the state of misconduct, pointing to a batch of unexamined bullets that a potential witness turned over to sheriff’s investigators months ago.

“This is critical evidence, your honor,” Nikas said.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office received the evidence in question three months ago, but it was never turned over to Baldwin’s defense team, Nikas said. In March, a retired Arizona police officer brought shell casings and bullets to the sheriff’s office, materials the former officer labeled as potential evidence in the “Rust” shooting.

Baldwin was indicted in January on one count of involuntary manslaughter in connection with Hutchins’ death. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could spend up to 18 months in prison. The trial began Wednesday.

The hearing featured a demonstration that even Marlowe Sommer called “unusual.” The judge ordered the evidence be brought to the courtroom. Minutes later, a sheriff’s deputy walked through the hushed courtroom with a package and handed it to the judge.

The black-robe-clad judge donned blue latex gloves and opened the sealed evidence envelope with a pair of scissors. Marlowe Sommer then walked to the well of the courtroom and directed a sheriff’s crime scene technician to assemble and inspect the contents of the bag — .45-caliber bullets.

The lead bullets found on the “Rust” set were housed in Starline Brass casings, making them easily identifiable to the investigators looking into the shooting — and some of the bullets introduced Friday also were stamped with Starline Brass.

Baldwin’s team asserted that charges against Baldwin must be dismissed, citing rules of evidence that require that defense attorneys be given evidence that could be helpful to their case.

Special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey protested that the bullets produced by the retired officer, Troy Teske, came only after armorer Hannah Gutierrez was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Morrissey described Teske as “a good friend” of Gutierrez’s stepfather Thell Reed, a longtime Hollywood armorer and sharpshooter.

The new collection of bullets “simply does not have any evidentiary value,” Morrissey insisted.

Still, the judge said she was concerned that proper disclosure hadn’t been given to the defense team, and she scrapped the day of testimony before the jury to hold a hearing into the handling of the Teske-supplied bullets.

The issue first surfaced during Crime Scene Technician Marissa Poppell’s testimony on Thursday. Baldwin’s other attorney Alex Spiro introduced the controversy, saying that a “Good Samaritan” had found evidence that could be helpful to the “Rust” shooting case earlier this year.

In his questioning, Spiro suggested that Santa Fe sheriff’s accused sheriff’s investigators of “burying” important evidence. On Friday, Nikas said the matter was just the latest misstep by prosecutors and investigators.

“It’s time for this case to be dismissed,” Nikas said.

“The fact that they concealed [the evidence], the fact that they put it under a separate document number, didn’t disclose the supplemental report, didn’t disclose the bullets. … If it was that irrelevant, and had no evidentiary value — it would have been there,” Nikas said.

Morrissey called the issue “a wild goose chase.”

“Your honor, there have been absolutely no violations of our obligations as prosecutors,” Morrissey said.

During Thursday’s testimony, Morrissey identified the “Good Samaritan” as a friend of Gutierrez’s stepfather.

“Are you aware that Troy Teske is a close friend of Hannah’s father?” Morrissey asked Poppell during Thursday’s testimony when the jury was present. “Are you aware that Troy Teske had his own motivations for wanting to help Ms. Gutierrez?”

Questions have long persisted about the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into the shooting.

The investigation took more than a year, and sheriff’s investigators never conclusively determined the source of the live ammunition on the “Rust” set — a fact that Baldwin’s team has made central to its case.

From the moment deputies arrived at Bonanza Creek Ranch, about 10 miles south of Santa Fe, they were overwhelmed. More than 100 members of the film crew were milling about, trying to make sense of the shooting.

The department was understaffed. Timoteo Benavidez, a retired sheriff’s lieutenant who was the on-scene commander, told the jury Wednesday that only seven deputies were patrolling the entire county that day.

The handful of officers who sped to the movie set after the 911 call encountered “people everywhere,” Benavidez said. He also had to calm Gutierrez, who was having what appeared to be a panic attack, his lapel camera video — which was played for the jury — showed.

Benavidez called New Mexico State Police, asking for reinforcements. But a state police commander refused. “I don’t remember if they said they didn’t have enough [officers] … or the supervisor just said ‘no,’” Benavidez testified.

Beastie Boys sue Chili’s owner over ‘Sabotage’ parody ad

The Beastie Boys have sued Brinker International, the owner of 30 Chili’s Grill & Bar locations in New York, for alleged copyright infringement and trademark rights violations.

The suit comes after a Chili’s ad was released parodying the rap group’s 1994 hit “Sabotage” and its ’70s themed, Spike Jonze-directed video.

The suit alleges that the ad, featuring “three characters wearing obvious 70s-style wigs, fake mustaches, and sunglasses,” was clearly “intended to evoke the three members of Beastie Boys — Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, Michael “Mike D” Diamond and the late Adam “MCA” Yauch.

“Use of the ‘Sabotage’ sound recording, music composition and video was all without permission,” according to the suit. In the legal action, the group says it does “not license ‘Sabotage’ or any of their other intellectual property for third-party product advertising purposes” and alleges that the ad creates a false impression that the act allowed it.

The suit seeks $150,000 in damages in each case of copyright violation, attorney fees and three times the profits from any false representations. The group also demanded that Brinker pull the ad from circulation and never use its music or likenesses again.

The Beastie Boys are famously averse to commercial licensing. Yauch’s will forbids the use of his image, music and art he created in any form of advertising for products.

If successful, this would be the third time in recent years that the Beastie Boys have triumphed over a company over unlicensed use of their music. In 2013, they won a settlement from toy company GoldieBlox after the firm parodied the group’s 1987 song “Girls” in an ad. The company apologized and donated to charity.

In 2014, the Beastie Boys won a $1.7-million settlement against the makers of Monster Energy Drink for using clips of songs like “Sabotage,” “So What’cha Want,” “Make Some Noise” and “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun” in a promotional video and a free download without permission from the band.

Rolling Stones were dangerous and vital as ever at Sofi SoFi

It’s been a rough month for octogenarians refusing to leave the stage in the U.S. So let’s be grateful that the Rolling Stones still light up stadiums as ferociously as ever.

On Wednesday at SoFi Stadium, the Stones did just what they’ve done for decades: They hit the circuit in support of a new rock and ’n’ roll album, last year’s fresh and riffy “Hackney Diamonds.” They’d have had every right to make this round of shows an affirming nostalgia trip for fans, particularly in the wake of losing beloved drummer Charlie Watts in 2021.

But as America wrestles with a culture ruled by gerontocracy, the Stones refused to be sentimental about anything on Wednesday night. This band is performing at the highest octane, capable of startling and exhilarating moments onstage that have created history instead of pandering to it.

For all the decades of dark glamour and staggering excess, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood still walk onstage to that famously modest introduction — “Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones.” Since the Johnson administration, it’s been the most sacred and reliable compact in rock ’n’ roll.

Mick Jagger performs with the Rolling Stones at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Wednesday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

However, with the death of Watts — famed for his cool reserve and jazzy, steadfast style behind the kit — it was fair to wonder how long that deal would hold. Contrary to all evidence so far, the Stones will hang it up someday.

Well, keep waiting. From that klaxon riff of “Start Me Up” to the restless pulse of closer “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the Stones roared and purred like a well-kept Aston Martin, reaffirming the dangerous pleasures of their catalog today as they did in 1964 and will be in 2064.

If you’re in despair about the world, be grateful for this, at least: We’re alive to see the mastery and vigor that Jagger brings to every stage. Those lithe little hip swings, shirt billowing in the night breeze; that perfectly clipped R&B enunciation on “Beast of Burden.” Don’t believe him when he jokes that “our first gig in San Bernardino was so long ago, some of you might think we’d been dug out of the La Brea Tar Pits.” He can still conjure that simmering lustiness just by shoving a microphone through his waistband.

Hold some special regard for Richards too. The most legendarily un-killable Stone was in fine form Wednesday night, using the limits of age to his advantage.

SoFi Stadium has become the set piece for every big pop spectacle of our time, a place where backing tracks are a prerequisite for the razzle-dazzle required. But we maintain that nothing sounds better in that venue than a gained-up, frighteningly loud, teeth-gnashing riff from Richards.

The Stones at Sofi Stadium.

The Stones hits — “Paint It Black,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Tumbling Dice” — glowed with a geothermal power, age-old yet still searing at SoFi Stadium on Wednesday night.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Wood gets all the fretboard acrobatics in the band these days, but when Richards leans into “Midnight Rambler” while Jagger howls about Robert Johnson’s hell hounds, he’s truly touching the flame. That stark, sad minor chord that opens the verses on “Wild Horses” sounded all the more arresting as played by those hands in 2024. When Richards sang “Everyone is asking questions, yeah / I got one too… Is the future all in the past?” on “Tell Me Straight,” you could feel him spitting back at the Reaper.

The hits — “Paint It Black,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Tumbling Dice” — glowed with a geothermal power, age-old yet still searing. The band reveled in what “Honky Tonk Women” can bring out of a lightly sauced crowd, now spanning three generations.

Even the tracks from “Hackney Diamonds” showed how relentlessly the Stones push forward. There’s a reason they looked to young producer Andrew Watt, the boomer-whisperer of contemporary rock, for their first LP of original material since 2005. “Angry” and “Mess It Up” were perfectly calibrated for this moment in the Stones — seething licks and the devil-may-care attitude of a band extremely confident in its resonance.

Mick Jagger on stage at SoFi

If you’re in despair about the world, be grateful for this at least: We’re alive to see the mastery and vigor that Mick Jagger brings to every stage.

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Much credit is due to the malleable backing band the Stones have recruited. Drummer Steve Jordan inhabited Watts’ style with honor and power, keyboardist Chuck Leavell ripped exquisite piano solos and Chanel Haynes brought Tina Turner-worthy vim to the backing vocals. (So did the War and Treaty’s Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter, who opened the set with regal Southern soul).

Even if we go to the Stones for the crushed velvet and silver jewelry, the sneers and pouts and the communal rituals of stadium rock, the band remains unsatisfied. No maudlin tributes, even to their own. No memory lanes to traverse. Just guitars and the devil, battling it out in the incandescent late years of the best rock band we’ll probably ever get.

Kevin Hart sued by former friend in connection with sex tape

Kevin Hart is being sued for allegedly botching a settlement agreement that was meant to clear the name of a former friend, Jonathan “J.T.” Jackson, as it related to the events surrounding the comic’s sex-tape cheating scandal.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Jackson accused the “Get Hard” actor of not using the “meticulously negotiated” and agreed-upon wording from their 2021 settlement when he addressed the scandal in an Instagram post that same year, resulting in a $12-million breach of written contract lawsuit. The civil lawsuit, which lists Hart, Hartbeat LLC and several Does among the defendants, also accuses them of fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The 23-page complaint, obtained Wednesday by The Times, said Hart was contractually obligated by their July 2021 settlement to use “specific verbiage” that would “publicly exonerate” the Navy veteran, professional bowler and actor, who was entangled in legal issues in the wake of the scandal.

“The wording of Hart’s statement — which was meticulously negotiated and detailed in the Contract — was absolutely crucial to repairing and remediating the severe damage inflicted upon Plaintiff’s reputation by the baseless extortion allegations that Hart aggressively promoted and publicized,” the complaint said.

Jackson, 47, was the target of a January 2018 raid at his home in which he and his wife were held at gunpoint by investigators with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office who were looking into allegations of extortion, which he believes Hart initiated. The charges were eventually dropped by prosecutors (whom Jackson also sued in December), but Jackson claimed that his “reputation was unjustly tarnished due to a series of malicious actions by the defendants,” including when Hart and Hartbeat released the 2019 Netflix docuseries “Don’t F— This Up.”

The docuseries mentioned extortion and alleged that Jackson had been involved in the creation and dissemination of a sex tape that showed Hart and a woman who was not his wife getting intimate in a Las Vegas hotel room. (Both Jackson and Hart were also sued for $60 million by model Montia Sabbag, the woman who purportedly appeared with Hart in the tape, but that lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, and Jackson was cleared of all allegations.)

According to the new lawsuit, Jackson did not receive any money from his settlement agreement with Hart, as he believed their contract was “not about seeking compensation, but was a means to an end” that would clear Jackson’s name. Hart’s public statement, which was to include agreed-upon language, was crucial for Jackson’s exoneration, the complaint said, and Jackson entered into that contract “with the expectation that it would finally restore his reputation and allow Plaintiff to resume his professional life with integrity.”

Jackson alleged that Hart explicitly agreed in their written settlement to “pursue and advocate for the dismissal of all criminal charges” against Jackson and make a public statement exonerating him. Hart, he said, was required to say that criminal charges against Jackson had been dismissed, that Jackson had been fully cleared of any involvement in an extortion plot and that the legal debacle had cost Hart “a valuable friendship.”

The complaint further said that Hart was supposed to say that he had “lost someone close to me that I loved and still have very much love for or high levels of love for and I’m proud to say that all charges against JT Jackson have been dropped and he is not guilty and had nothing to do with it and this matter at hand that once was so tough to deal with and so heavy for me and my household is now put to bed.”

Instead, Hart’s Oct. 27, 2021, Instagram video “blatantly broke” their agreement and “manipulate[d] the narrative,” the complaint said. Hart ultimately said that “J.T. Jackson has recently been found not guilty, and those charges have been dropped against him, and I can finally speak on what I once couldn’t.” The comedian also said that their friendship “was lost” due to the legal process and noted his relief about the legal saga being over. He did not mention that Jackson “had nothing to do with it.”

“Hart’s statement deviates significantly from the agreed-upon verbiage in several crucial aspects,” Jackson’s attorney, Daniel L. Reback, argued in the complaint. “First, Hart’s stipulated verbiage explicitly required him to state that ‘all charges against [Jackson] have been dropped and he is not guilty and had nothing to do with it.’ However, Hart’s actual statement lacks the explicit declaration of Plaintiff’s innocence or non-involvement. Also, Hart’s agreed-upon statement was to acknowledge the incident’s heavy impact on the loss of a valuable friendship due to the legal matter, but Hart’s actual statement focuses entirely on Hart himself ‘moving on’ and does not directly acknowledge the significant personal and professional toll on Plaintiff as outlined in the Contract.”

In addition to $12 million, Jackson is seeking punitive damages to be determined at trial, legal costs and fees and injunctions requiring the defendants to exonerate him, as well as the removal of “all the false statements” about him in “Don’t F— This Up.”

In a statement to The Times, Reback added: “The facts in the complaint speak for themselves. We are confident that the lawsuit will end with Mr. Jackson’s complete victory and vindication.”

A spokesperson for Hart was not available Wednesday to respond to The Times’ request for comment.

Hart has spoken publicly about the sex-tape saga repeatedly over the years, apologizing to his wife, Eniko Parrish, who was pregnant with their first child at the time the tape was allegedly recorded in Las Vegas. Amid reports that an unidentified woman allegedly tried to extort him for a video featuring sexually suggestive content, Hart apologized to Parrish in a September 2017 Instagram video.

“I gotta do better and I will. I’m not perfect and have never claimed to be,” he wrote in the video’s caption. Months later, he confessed to the infidelity, telling “The Breakfast Club” in December 2017 that he had been “beyond irresponsible.”

“That’s Kevin Hart in his dumbest moment. That’s not the finest hour of my life,” he said. “With that being said, you make your bed, you lay in it. You can’t say what were you thinking, because you weren’t thinking.”

Times staff writer Alexandra Del Rosario contributed to this report.

Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ shooting trial begins with opening statements

Alec Baldwin’s criminal trial in the fatal “Rust” shooting hinges on a single question: Was it the Hollywood actor’s responsibility to do a safety check on his gun?

Baldwin’s trial on involuntary manslaughter charges in the 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins began Wednesday with a prosecutor telling jurors that Baldwin acted negligently because he never bothered to check his gun and frequently went off script during production of the low-budget western near Santa Fe.

Then, during the ill-fated rehearsal on Oct. 21, 2021, Baldwin unexpectedly cocked the hammer of his prop gun and pulled the trigger in a reckless act that caused Hutchins’ death, special prosecutor Erlinda O. Johnson alleged.

One of Baldwin’s attorneys provided jurors with a dramatically different account.

The real problem was not that Baldwin was manipulating his gun; that’s what actors do, Baldwin attorney Alex Spiro said. During his opening statement, Spiro suggested the real crime was that a live bullet had found its way on the New Mexico movie set.

The film’s safety officer and weapons expert were the ones who failed to perform their duties, as did sheriff’s deputies who were unable to figure out the source of the live bullet, Spiro said.

“They didn’t find the lethal bullet — they never did,” Spiro said. “Looking for that shiny object, they found another shiny object. Instead of trying to find the source of the lethal bullet, they focused on Mr. Baldwin.”

Spiro suggested that sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors were under considerable pressure because “the media was swirling.”

Even though investigators long considered the shooting an accident, state officials started scrutinizing Baldwin’s conduct despite knowing he did not bring the bullets onto the set, Spiro said.

Spiro stressed that it was the film’s assistant director and the armorer — not the actor — who were tasked with checking the guns. Baldwin’s role was to realistically portray his character, the outlaw Harland Rust, Spiro said.

“He is deeply focused in that moment on his character,” Spiro said. “He was just acting as he has done for decades. It was the safety experts who let them all down. Alec Baldwin had committed no crime.”

Baldwin was indicted in January of one count of involuntary manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty. His trial is expected to last eight days.

If convicted, he could spend up to 18 months in prison.

“On a movie set, you are allowed to pull the trigger,” Spiro said, adding that Baldwin “did not know or have any reason to believe that gun was loaded with a live bullet.”

After Spiro finished his opening statement and sat beside Baldwin, the actor embraced his attorney.

The 66-year-old actor-producer arrived at the Santa Fe County courthouse at 8 a.m. with his wife, Hilaria. His brother Stephen Baldwin sat with Hilaria Baldwin in the second row of the courtroom, behind the defense table.

Famed victims rights attorney Gloria Allred sat in the first row behind the prosecutors. Allred represents Hutchins’ family members who live in Ukraine as well as “Rust” script supervisor Mamie Mitchell.

The family members and Mitchell have brought negligence lawsuits against Baldwin and the other producers. The producers deny any wrongdoing.

The film’s director, Joel Souza, who was injured in the shooting but recovered, is expected to testify.

“The director will tell you that many times the actor would do his own thing,” Johnson, the prosecutor, said.

She also noted that members of the camera crew had walked off the “Rust” set — hours before the tragic accident.

“They were concerned over safety breaches,” Johnson said.

The 2021 shooting shined a harsh light on New Mexico’s vibrant film community.

“We are not a wealthy state and we work hard to bring industry here and one area that is really starting to thrive is the movie industry,” said Santa Fe resident Gail Anderson Tuesday evening.

The “Rust” shooting “revealed how film sets are managed and how they need to be more tightly managed,” Anderson said.

More than 100 reporters and TV camera operators clustered around the courthouse in downtown Santa Fe on Tuesday.

The trial is being livestreamed by Court TV.

Grand jurors in January determined there was sufficient evidence to charge Baldwin for allegedly acting negligently by pointing a loaded gun at Hutchins without first checking the weapon for ammunition.

In March, a different jury found the armorer Hannah Gutierrez guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The judge sentenced her to 18 months in prison.

Assistant director David Halls last year pleaded no contest to negligent use of a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to a suspended sentence of six months of probation, which he completed last fall.

Now it’s up to the jury to determine whether Baldwin is also culpable.

“I’m not a friend of Alec Baldwin, but that man would never intentionally shoot someone on a set,” Anderson, the Santa Fe resident, said. “It’s just a horrible tragedy.”

Jenni Rivera’s and Selena’s Walk of Fame stars vandalized twice

The Hollywood Walk of Fame stars of Selena Quintanilla and Jenni Rivera were vandalized twice with black paint in the span of 24 hours.

Rivera, known as “la Diva de la Banda,” was granted the posthumous honor at a June 27 ceremony that saw fans from all over the country gather to celebrate her legacy. Quintanilla was given her star in 2017. Both Mexican American singers are recognized globally for their contributions to Latin music. They also faced tragic ends to their lives: Quintanilla was murdered in 1995 and Rivera was killed in a plane crash in 2012.

The first incident of vandalism took place sometime Monday morning, said Ana Martinez, vice president of media and talent relations at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the organization that oversees and maintains the Walk of Fame. Martinez said she immediately filed a police report and sent a cleanup crew. Videos of fans getting on their hands and knees scrubbing the Rivera star began to circulate online that day.

Marisela Santana, a Rivera fan who attended the dedication ceremony, said she was not surprised that people had shown up to clean the star.

“The fact that someone defaced her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame doesn’t mean she stopped shining,” she said. “I’m glad that people took it upon themselves to clean it immediately.”

“It’s not just Jenni’s trophy; it’s a trophy for the community,” said Julie Vasquez, Rivera’s longtime assistant. “In true Jenni fashion, we wouldn’t have the triumph without the trials and tribulations. People throw rocks at things that shine, this is no different than all the other recognitions and awards she’s received. I pray that this is the last time it gets vandalized.”

On Tuesday morning, the stars were vandalized yet again. Martinez said she was inspecting a portion of the Walk of Fame on Vine Street when she noticed black paint on several stars.

“I’ve done this for 37 years and have not experienced this. There have been little incidents, where people try to poke around to see what star is being covered or people will graffiti their names on blank stars, but nothing like this,” she said, adding that she called for an additional cleanup crew and filed a second police report. Martinez said the chamber is seeking surveillance video from nearby establishments to share with authorities.

“My mother’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a symbol of her incredible legacy and the impact she made on so many lives,” Jacqie Campos, Rivera’s second-oldest child, said in a statement to The Times. “Seeing it damaged not once, but twice, is heartbreaking and deeply disappointing.

“My family and I hope that those responsible understand the pain they’ve caused and that they come to appreciate the significance of this honor. We are committed to preserving her memory and will continue to honor her contributions to music and our community. We also want to extend our heartfelt thanks to the fans for their unwavering support and for helping restore her star. Your love and dedication mean the world to us.”

Julia Fox comes out as lesbian — as she promised last year

She promised it would happen, and now it seems as if it has: Julia Fox just announced she is lesbian.

The reality-show panelist and cutting-edge fashionista posted the news on TikTok, stitched to a clip of user Em Grace (@emgwaciedawgie), who said, “I love when I see a lesbian with their boyfriend. It’s like, aww, you hate that man.”

“Hey. That was me. I was that lesbian,” Fox said in her reply, shooting the video as she walked down a sunny street. “Sorry boys, won’t happen again.”

Representatives for the “Uncut Gems” actor did not respond immediately Tuesday to a request for confirmation. But Fox had pointed toward the future of her sexuality in an interview last year.

“I think I’m just so afraid to open that can of worms, because I know that once I do, that’s it,” Fox told The Times in September, about the decision to get into relationships with women instead of men. “There’s no coming back from it, and I know that I’ll just be a lesbian. It will happen, eventually. I’m just prolonging it, personally, because I’m afraid.”

She also wrote in her memoir about her feelings for a best friend, Gianna.

“If I were to have been open with my sexuality, I would’ve been with Gianna,” Fox told The Times. We were low-key in love. There were times when we would do sexual things, and then never talk about it.”

The feelings apparently ran deep, prompting her to add, “If I could bring her back to life, I would trade everything apart from my son. Every dollar in my bank account, every achievement, every other person in my life. She died, and I was never the same again.”

Of course, outside of her NYC club reputation and her acting and “OMG Fashun” careers, Fox is well known for her brief, allegedly sexless stint on the arm of rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.

The two hit the scene together for a couple of weeks in early 2021, traveling to Miami, New York City and L.A. and leaving heads spinning among those who follow such things.

Since then, Fox had sworn off men — both in relationships and in general — telling Elle last year that her attitude was, “Like, don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, don’t bother me.”

She went on: “I feel like knowingly engaging in a heterosexual relationship, you are signing yourself up for an unhealthy dynamic.”