SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – What was expected to be a high-profile court hearing next week surrounding the fatal 2021 “Rust” movie set shooting won’t happen as originally planned. The film’s assistant director, David Halls, will now face a judge in a virtual plea deal hearing later this month.

The change gets Halls out of having to appear in a Santa Fe courtroom in person. Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer approved Halls’ request to appear virtually after his defense cited several concerns over an in person appearance.

Halls has agreed to plea to a single count of negligent use of a deadly weapon (unsafe handling) in relation to the shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Hutchins was killed on the “Rust” film set in October 2021 during a rehearsal involving actor-producer Alec Baldwin. Hutchins was struck by a bullet that fired from a gun Baldwin was handling on set.

Halls was initially scheduled to be physically present inside of Santa Fe’s District Court building for a hearing next week. The New Mexico Administrative Office of the Court now says Halls’ will have a virtual hearing on March 29, 2023.

In court filings published Friday, Halls’ Albuquerque attorney argued that it would be a financial hardship for Halls to travel to New Mexico for a court hearing. Halls’ defense attorney also argued that because of “intensive public interest, unwanted attention and potential safety concerns,” Halls should be allowed to have a plea hearing through a virtual court setting.

Court documents filed Friday afternoon indicate the judge approved the motion. The Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office did not oppose the request, according to court records.

So far, Halls is the only one of three people charged in the Rust shooting to reach a plea agreement. Halls oversaw safety on the film set and was reportedly the subject of at least one prior workplace safety complaint before the Rust shooting.

A Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office search warrant indicates that Halls admitted to investigators he couldn’t remember if the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, performed the typical checks on the real weapon that Baldwin was using as a prop. Halls also hat he didn’t check all the rounds inside the prop revolver.

Alec Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge related to Hutchins’ death. Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has yet to enter a plea for the involuntary manslaughter charge she’d facing.

As part of Halls’ agreement, the assistant director is expect to receive a suspended sentence and six months of probation. He’s also expected to serve as a witness in the prosecution of Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed.