A jury chooses ‘That ’70s Show’ actor Danny Masterson guilty to rape two women in his Hollywood Hills home in the early 2000s, according to The Associated Press.
The jury was unable to rule on an additional count of rape involving a third woman.
This was the second trial for the 47-year-old actor and Scientologist. Prosecutors said Scientology officials shielded Masterson for years after he drugged and sexually assaulted the women. The women, who were also Scientologists, testified that the church barred them from filing a complaint with the police.
The jurors deliberated for 8 days before delivering their verdict. The original trial ended on November 30, 2022, with the jury deadlocked on all counts after protracted deliberations, which had to be restarted when two jurors got COVID.
Masterson pleaded not guilty to the charges and did not testify in his own defense in either trial.
Danny Masterson appears at the CMT Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee on June 7, 2017.
This second jury, made up of seven women and five men, was the first to hear allegations that Masterson had drugged his victims, which Judge Charlaine Olmedo had not authorized during the initial trial. This jury only heard that the women had been “incompetent” when Masterson allegedly raped them in separate incidents at his home between 2001 and 2003.
“The defendant drugs his victims to gain control. He does this to deprive his victims of the capacity to consent,” Assistant District Attorney Ariel Anson told the jury in his May 16 closing argument. according to the Associated Press.
“You don’t want to have sex? You have no choice,” Anson said. “The accused makes this choice for these victims. And he does it again and again and again.
The first victim to testify said Masterson suffocated her with a pillow and threatened her with a gun during a stroke in 2003 when she was semi-conscious after drinking a glass of alcohol he served her.
Masterson claimed he had consensual sex with the women. Her defense attorney Philip Cohen sought to discredit the women in his closing argument, pointing out inconsistencies in their stories and suggesting that the prosecution focused on Scientology to distract from “Other problemswith the case, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The judge ruled that more evidence related to Scientology could be heard in this second trial – allowing former Scientology official Claire Headley to testify as an expert witness to push back against church denials of its policies and principles, which critics have described as controlling and abusive.
The women, who are no longer Scientologists, testified that the church barred them from reporting the assaults to the police, charged them with the alleged rapes and harassed, intimidated and hounded. Headley, who sued the church in 2009 after years of climbing the ranks of his religious order Sea Org, testified that “it is a policy not to call the police” without “specific authorization” – and that “according to the laws of Scientology, it would be a serious crime” to report a fellow Scientologist to the police without authorization.
Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw flatly denied that such policies exist in the Church. “The Church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting the criminal conduct of anyone, Scientologist or not, to law enforcement,” Pouw said in a statement to HuffPost. She also called the harassment and harassment allegations an “attempt to grab money” by the alleged victims who are also suing Masterson and the church in a civil lawsuit.
In his closing arguments, Anson said, “The church has taught its victims, ‘Rape is not rape, you caused it, and most importantly, you are never allowed to go to the forces of the order”, calling Masterson “untouchable” because of his fame. status in Scientology, the AP reported.
Thursday, while the jurors were deliberating, Leah Remini posted a letter that she claimed the mother of one of the victims sent to Scientology leader David Miscavige in 2004, listing graphic details of Masterson’s alleged sexual assaults. The mother concluded by asking if the church had tried to persuade her daughter to “perjure herself so that their fame could walk as a scout”. [sic] free” and whether “celebrities are exempt” from “codes of justice”.
Masterson is best known for playing Steven Hyde on all eight seasons of “That ’70s Show,” which aired on Fox from 1998 to 2006. Masterson was the only original cast member. not appear in “That ’90s Show”, a Netflix sequel series that debuted in January.
Need help? Visit RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website.