Actor Danny Masterson found guilty of 2 out of 3 counts of rape in retrial
Danny Masterson, right, and his wife Bijou Phillips arrive for closing arguments in his second trial, May 16, 2023, in Los Angeles. A jury found “That ’70s Show” star Masterson guilty of two counts of rape Wednesday, May 31, in a Los Angeles retrial in which the Church of Scientology played a central role. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A jury found “That ’70s Show” star Danny Masterson guilty of two out of three counts of rape Wednesday in a Los Angeles retrial in which the Church of Scientology played a central role.
The jury of seven women and five men reached the verdict after deliberating for seven days spread over two weeks. They could not reach a verdict on the third count, that alleged Masterson raped a longtime girlfriend. They had voted 8-4 in favor of conviction.
Masterson was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. The 47-year-old actor faces up to 30 years in prison.
His wife, actor and model Bijou Phillips, wept as he was led away. Other family and friends sat stone-faced.
“I am experiencing a complex array of emotions – relief, exhaustion, strength, sadness – knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will face accountability for his criminal behavior,” one of the women, whom Masterson was convicted of raping at his home in 2003, said in a statement.
The woman, whose count left the jury deadlocked, said in the statement: “While I’m encouraged that Danny Masterson will face some criminal punishment, I am devastated that he has dodged criminal accountability for his heinous conduct against me.”
Prosecutors, retrying Masterson after a deadlocked jury led to a mistrial in December, said he forcibly raped three women, including a longtime girlfriend, in his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. They told jurors he drugged the women’s drinks so he could rape them. They said he used his prominence in the church — where all three women were also members at the time — to avoid consequences for decades.
Masterson did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses. The defense argued that the acts were consensual, and attempted to discredit the women’s stories by highlighting changes and inconsistencies over time, which they said showed signs of coordination between them.
“If you decide that a witness deliberately lied about something in this case,” defense attorney Philip Cohen told jurors, going through their instructions in his closing argument, “You should consider not believing anything that witness says.”
The Church of Scientology played a significant role in the first trial but arguably an even larger one in the second. Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo allowed expert testimony on church policy from a former official in Scientology leadership who has become a prominent opponent.
Tensions ran high in the courtroom between current and former Scientologists, and even leaked into testimony, with the accusers saying on the stand that they felt intimidated by some members in the room.
Actor Leah Remini, a former member who has become the church’s highest-profile critic, sat in on the trial at times, putting her arm around one of the accusers to comfort her during closing arguments.
Founded in 1953 by L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology has many members who work in Hollywood. The judge kept limits on how much prosecutors could talk about the church, and primarily allowed it to explain why the women took so long to go to authorities.
The women testified that when they reported Masterson to church officials, they were told they were not raped, were put through ethics programs themselves, and were warned against going to law enforcement to report a member of such high standing.
“They were raped, they were punished for it, and they were retaliated against,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told jurors in his closing argument. “Scientology told them there’s no justice for them. You have the opportunity to show them there is justice.”
The church vehemently denied having any policy that forbids members from going to secular authorities.
The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they’ve been sexually abused.
Testimony in this case was graphic and emotional.
Two women, who knew Masterson from social circles in the church, said he gave them drinks and that they then became woozy or passed out before he violently raped them in 2003.
The third, Masterson’s then-girlfriend of five years, said she awoke to find him raping her, and had to pull his hair to stop him.
The issue of drugging also played a major role in the retrial. At the first, Olmedo only allowed prosecutors and accusers to describe their disorientation, and to imply that they were drugged. The second time, they were allowed to argue it directly, and the prosecution attempted to make it a major factor, to no avail.
“The defendant drugs his victims to gain control,” Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson said in her closing argument. “He does this to take away his victims’ ability to consent.”
Masterson was not charged with any counts of drugging, and there is no toxicology evidence to back up the assertion. His attorney asked for a mistrial over the issue’s inclusion. The motion was denied, but the issue is likely to be a major factor in any potential appeal.
These charges date to a period when Masterson was at the height of his fame, starring from 1998 until 2006 as Steven Hyde on Fox’s “That ’70s Show” — the show that made stars of Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace.
Masterson had reunited with Kutcher on the 2016 Netflix comedy “The Ranch,” but was written off the show when an LAPD investigation was revealed in December 2017.
nced “That ’70s Show” show star Danny Masterson to 30 years to life in prison Thursday for raping two women, giving them some relief after they spoke in court about the decades of damage he inflicted.
“When you raped me, you stole from me,” said one woman who Masterson was convicted of raping in 2003. “That’s what rape is, a theft of the spirit.”
“You are pathetic, disturbed and completely violent,” she said. “The world is better off with you in prison.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo handed down the sentence to the 47-year-old Masterson after hearing statements from the women, and pleas for fairness from defense attorneys.
The actor, who has been in custody since May, sat in court wearing a suit. Masterson watched the women without visible reaction as they spoke. He maintains his innocence and his attorneys plan to appeal.
The other woman Masterson was found guilty of raping said he “has not shown an ounce of remorse for the pain he caused.” She told the judge, “I knew he belonged behind bars for the safety of all the women he came into contact with. I am so sorry, and I’m so upset. I wish I’d reported him sooner to the police.”
After an initial jury failed to reach verdicts on three counts of rape in December and a mistrial was declared, prosecutors retried Masterson on all three counts earlier this year.
Masterson waived his right to speak before he was sentenced and had no visible reaction after the judge's decision, nor did the many family members sitting beside him. His wife, actor Bijou Phillips, was tearful earlier in the hearing.
At his second trial, found Masterson guilty of two of three rape counts on May 31. Both attacks took place in Masterson’s Hollywood-area home in 2003, when he was at the height of his fame on the Fox network sitcom “That ’70s Show.”
They could not reach a verdict on the third count, an allegation that Masterson also raped a longtime girlfriend.
Related video: Danny Masterson Sentenced to 30 Years to Life in Sexual Assault Case (US Weekly)
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Danny Masterson Sentenced to 30 Years to Life in Sexual Assault Case
The judge sentenced the actor after rejecting a defense motion for a new trial that was argued earlier Thursday. The sentence was the maximum allowed by law. It means Masterson will be eligible for parole after serving 25 1/2 years, but can be held in prison for life.
“I know that you’re sitting here steadfast in your claims of innocence, and thus no doubt feeling victimized by a justice system that has failed you,” Olmedo told Masterson before handing down the sentence. “But Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here. Your actions 20 years ago took away another person’s voice, and choice. One way or another you will have to come to terms with your prior actions, and their consequences.”
The defense sought to have sentences for the two convictions run simultaneously, and asked for a sentence of 15 years to life. The prosecution asked for the full 30 years to life sentence Masterson was eligible for.
“It’s his life that will be impacted by what you decide today,” Masterson’s lawyer Shawn Holley told the judge before the sentencing. “And the life of his 9-year-old daughter, who means the world to him, and to whom he means the world.”
After the hearing, Holley said in a statement that “Mr. Masterson did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted.” She said a team of appellate lawyers has identified “a number of significant evidentiary and constitutional issues” with his convictions, which they are confident will be overturned.
Prosecutors alleged that Masterson used his prominence in the Church of Scientology — where all three women were also members at the time — to avoid consequences for decades after the attacks, and the women blamed the church for their hesitancy in going to police about Masterson.
At the sentencing hearing, one of the women, who like Masterson was born into the church, said she was shunned and ostracized for going to authorities in 2004.
“I lost everything. I lost my religion. I lost my ability to contact anyone I’d known or loved my entire life," she said. "I didn’t exist outside the Scientology world. I had to start my life all over at 29. It seemed the world I knew didn’t want me to live.”
The church said in a statement after the trial that it has “no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone — Scientologists or not — to law enforcement.” It has also denied ever harassing any of the women.
No charges came from the woman's 2004 police report, but she returned to authorities when she learned they were investigating Masterson again in 2016. The other two women had waited more than 15 years before reporting him to anyone other than church officials.
The women testified at both trials that in 2003, they were at Masterson's home when he drugged them before violently raping them.
They said Thursday that the trauma plagued them for the decades that followed, hurting their relationships and filling their lives with fear. But they said his sentencing game them some relief.
“I don’t have to carry your shame around with me anymore,” the first woman who spoke said. "Now you have to hold that shame. You have to sit in a cell and hold it.”
Masterson starred with Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace in “That ’70s Show” from 1998 until 2006.
He had reunited with Kutcher on the 2016 Netflix comedy “The Ranch,” but was written off the show when the Los Angeles Police Department investigation was revealed the following year.
While that investigation began before a wave of women shook Hollywood with stories about Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, the conviction and sentencing of Masterson still represents a major #MeToo era success for Los Angeles prosecutors, along with the conviction of Weinstein himself last year.
Joined: 10 Dec 2006 Posts: 51850 Location: Making a safety stop at 15 feet.
Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2023 6:44 pm Post subject:
Lets see if Xenu can get him out of this mess.
Xenu gonna say DannyWho? _________________ You thought God was an architect, now you know
He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow
And everything you built that’s all for show
goes up in flames
In 24 frames
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