Judge to sentence actor Danny Masterson to prison for two rapes

A judge in Los Angeles is due to decide the prison sentence for US actor Danny Masterson, who was convicted in May of raping two women in the early 2000s.

The star of That ’70s Show, a TV sit-com series, faces up to 30 years or life in prison.

Prosecutors argued Masterson, 47, had relied on his status as a prominent Scientologist to avoid accountability.

Masterson was found guilty at a re-trial after the first jury was unable to reach a verdict in 2022.

On Thursday, Judge Charlaine Olmedo will allow the victims to deliver impact statements before the sentencing.

The sentencing hearing began at 08:30PDT (16:30GMT). His wife, Bijou Phillips, was seen entering court with family members as the hearing got underway.

The actor was convicted on 31 May after three women testified that he had sexually assaulted them at his Hollywood home from 2001-03 – during the height of his television fame.

The jury heard testimony that he had given them drugs before he assaulted them.

He was found guilty of rape against two of his three accusers. The charges brought by the third accuser were declared a mistrial and prosecutors said they do not plan to retry the case.

After his conviction, Masterson was deemed a flight risk and was taken into prison custody.

Masterson was first accused of rape in 2017 during the height of the #MeToo movement. He denied the accusations and said each of the encounters was consensual.

Charges came after a three-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Prosecutors did not file charges in two other cases because of insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations expiring.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that the Church of Scientology had helped cover up the assaults – an allegation the organisation has categorically denied.

At the time of the assaults, Masterson and all three of his accusers were Scientologists. Several of the women said it took them years to come forward because Church of Scientology officials discouraged them from reporting the rape to police.

Scientology officials told one survivor she would be kicked out of the Church unless she signed a non-disclosure agreement and accepted a payment of $400,000 (£320,000), according to prosecutors.

During the trial, Judge Olmedo allowed both sides to discuss the dogma and practices of Scientology, angering the religious community.

In its statement after the verdict, the Church said there was “not a scintilla of evidence supporting the scandalous allegations that the Church harassed the accusers”.

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