A Los Angeles jury found Danny Masterson guilty on two of three counts of rape Wednesday, ending a contentious retrial filled with uncensored testimonies and the impending influence of the Church of Scientology.
The jurors were hanged in the third rape case. Masterson, 47, is currently serving a maximum sentence of 30 years behind bars – 15 years for each conviction. The minimum penalty for a rape conviction in California is three years.
Each of the three accusers of Masterson, That 70’s Show The star raped them in the early 2000s after he drugged them. Despite the alleged attacks that occurred nearly two decades ago, prosecutors said the victims were initially afraid to come forward, as Masteron and the Church of Scientology, of which the victims are members, forced them to remain silent.
Los Angeles cops began investigating Masterson in 2016, but official charges didn’t come until 2020. Masterson appeared in court last fall, but the jurors were in a stalemate and a false trial was declared. Reports at the time said that the majority of jurors favored Masterson’s acquittal on all counts.
Five months after the jury was hung, Masterson’s retrial began in late April. Prosecutors’ allegations were largely the same, emphasizing that the three people who accused Masterson were dizzy and uncomfortable after they were served drinks and subsequently raped by the actor.
Prosecutors claimed that Masterson raped the women while they were unconscious. When women tried to raise their voices after the attack, prosecutors claimed they were silenced by Scientology officials and Masterson, who claimed the rape never happened and demanded that they stay away from law enforcement.
Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson argued during the trial that Masterson was “carefully looking for his prey”.
“Many of his victims are members of the Church of Scientology, and that makes sense,” Anson said. “The church tells its victims, ‘Rape is not rape. You are causing this. And best of all, you can’t go to law enforcement.’”
Masterson’s accusers were identified in court by partial names: Chrissy B., Jen B., and N. Trout. Just like at the first hearing, Masterson never testified and his lawyers did not call witnesses, rather than relying on cross-examination to undermine the credibility of each accuser.
The defense specifically picked Chrissy and asked why the woman who was dating Masterson at the time was willing to stay at the actor’s home and hotels when she was allegedly sexually assaulted.
Philip Cohen, a defense attorney, stressed that there is no forensic evidence that anyone was drugged or raped by Masterson. He also claimed that the accusers had a number of inconsistencies that were ignored by prosecutors.
“He did a very good job ignoring many of them,” Cohen said of prosecutors. “What he sees as minor inconsistencies are central to trying to determine whether someone is credible, credible, credible enough for a criminal conviction?”
Chrissy claimed that Masterson regularly had sex with her while she slept. Although multiple rape allegations were made, jurors were tasked with deciding that it occurred in November 2001, when Chrissy claimed she had woken up during an attack and had responded. She said that despite her best efforts, Masterson hit her and continued to rape her.
Trout claimed it was an equally grisly attack. He said Masterson’s brutality caused him to vomit into his mouth as he attacked him. She claims she begged Masterson to at least put on a condom, when her pleas to stop weren’t enough.
Jen said she was raped by Masterson after she went out for a drink in Hollywood. When she got home, she said Masterson pulled out a gun and suffocated him with a pillow after he drugged one of his drinks.
Masterson vehemently denied any blame for jumping. Arriving at court on Tuesday to settle the disputes, he appeared calm as he entered the courtroom with his wife, Bijou Phillips, holding a Starbucks drink.
His defense has repeatedly denied Scientology’s influence on the case, saying the church’s alleged cover-up claims were to cover up a weak case of the government.
Many church members reportedly attended the hearing, sometimes arguing with critics just outside the courtroom. Los Angeles times reported.
But reports suggest that the mighty church may be more than just an audience. Vicki Podberesky, who serves as Scientology’s external adviser, reportedly has “a large amount” of restricted discovery material and used it to file a complaint with the district attorney’s office. Times reported.
Assistant District Attorney Reinhold Mueller described Podberesky’s involvement as “extremely disturbing” and said it was a mystery how the evidence showed this outside the courtroom. Podberesky told Times Received all documents legally.
Leah Remini, an actress and former Scientology member, was outraged that the church so shamelessly included her in the trial.
“There’s no reason why Scientology should hold crime-related discovery materials,” he said. tweeted last week. “He has no motive. Scientology, who MUST be one of the defendants in this case, has repeatedly lied to say he had no secret involvement in this case.”
While not part of Masterson’s criminal case, the church was sued in 2022 by accusers of the actor. The accusers allege that Scientology conspired with Masterson to scare them into keeping quiet. That civil case is still pending.