The Real Reason Why a “Rust” Prosecutor Made 'Difficult Decision' to Step Down Ahead of Alec Baldwin Trial

One of three special prosecutors withdrew from the case less than three months before Baldwin's trial is set to begin in July

<p>Jim Bennett/Getty</p> Alec Baldwin in 2020

Jim Bennett/Getty

Alec Baldwin in 2020

The legal team prosecuting Alec Baldwin for involuntary manslaughter is down by one attorney — but it’s not because of infighting, as has been reported.

In court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Jason J. Lewis, who was named as a special prosecutor in the case last year, submitted a motion to withdraw which went unopposed by Baldwin’s lawyers. Kari T. Morrissey and Erlinda Johnson remain as special prosecutors.

The move comes less than three months before Baldwin — who was holding a prop gun on the New Mexico set of Rust when it discharged, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza — is set to stand trial in July.

The actor, 66, has insisted he did not pull the trigger and was unaware that the gun accidentally contained live ammunition. His attorneys are in the midst of trying to get the case against him dismissed and, on April 22, accused the special prosecutors of “stunning abuse of prosecutorial power” in court documents they filed as part of their reply to the State’s response to their motion to dismiss.

Related: Everything to Know About the Rust Shooting Case and Alec Baldwin's Upcoming Trial

Their allegation comes from the prosecutors’ revelation in their April 5 response that they rescinded a plea deal they offered Baldwin last year because they claimed he was working on a documentary about Hutchins and was pressuring material witnesses to participate.

Baldwin’s lawyers deny he is making a documentary; Morrissey told PEOPLE at the time “We stand by the statements and arguments in our response.”

Courtesy of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office Alec Baldwin on the set of 'Rust'
Courtesy of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office Alec Baldwin on the set of 'Rust'

After Lewis stepped down, it was reported that he did so because of infighting among the special prosecutors amid Baldwin’s latest court filing, which also accused the lawyers of submitting an “appalling” response to their motion to dismiss.

But Morrissey tells PEOPLE any talk of discord is “absolutely incorrect.”

“The Baldwin trial was set very quickly at the request of Mr. Baldwin. Mr. Lewis has obligations to another client between now and July that prohibit him from dedicating the appropriate amount of time to preparing for the Baldwin trial,” Morrissey said in a statement.

“In fact, Mr. Lewis met with his other client prior to withdrawing from the Baldwin case to determine if adequate time could be carved out that would allow him to remain as counsel on the Baldwin case and still meet his obligations to his other client,” Morrissey continued.

Related: Rust Armorer's 'Swift' Guilty Verdict in Halyna Hutchins' Death Could Hint at Alec Baldwin’s Fate: Expert (Exclusive)

“Ultimately Mr. Lewis made the difficult decision to withdraw so he can meet his obligations to his other client and Ms. Johnson has joined the team to substitute for Mr. Lewis,” Morrissey said.

<p>Mat Hayward/Getty</p> Halyna Hutchins in 2018

Mat Hayward/Getty

Halyna Hutchins in 2018

As PEOPLE previously reported, now that Baldwin’s side has replied to the special prosecutors’ response to their motion to dismiss, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer can make a decision based on the filings or schedule a hearing where both sides' legal teams can further argue their case.

If Sommer does not dismiss the case, Baldwin is scheduled to stand trial July 10. He faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 26, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in March and sentenced to 18 months in prison on April 15.

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