A jury has found Danny Masterson from That ’70s Show guilty of raping two women at his Hollywood Hills home in the early 2000s, according to The Associated Press.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict 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 protected Masterson for years after he drugged and sexually assaulted the women. The women, who were also Scientologists, testified that the Church forbade them to report the incident to the police.
The jurors deliberated for 8 days before giving their verdict. The original trial ended with the jury on November 30, 2022 stuck at all points after lengthy deliberation, which had to be restarted when two jurors contracted COVID.
Masterson pleaded not guilty to the charges and did not testify in either trial in his defense.
Danny Masterson appears at the CMT Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee on June 7, 2017.
This second jury, composed of seven women and five men, was the first to hear allegations that Masterson had drugged his victims, which Judge Charlaine Olmedo had disallowed in the original trial. That jury only learned that the women were “incompetent” when Masterson allegedly raped them in separate incidents at his home between 2001 and 2003.
“The defendant uses his victims to gain control. He’s doing this to take away his victims’ ability to consent,” Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson told the jury in her closing argument on May 16. according to The Associated Press.
“Don’t you want to have sex? You have no choice,” Anson said. “The suspect makes that choice for these victims. And he does that time and time again.”
The first victim to testify said Masterson smothered her with a pillow and threatened her with a gun during an attack in 2003, while she was semi-conscious after drinking a glass of alcohol he served her.
Masterson claimed he had consensual sex with the women. His attorney Philip Cohen tried to discredit the women in his closing argument by 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 was heard in this second trial — allowing former Scientology official Claire Headley to testify as an expert witness to push back the church’s denials about its policies and principles, which critics have described as controlling and abusive.
The women, who are no longer Scientologists, testified that the Church prohibited them from reporting the assaults to police, blamed them for the alleged rapes, and harassed, intimidated and stalked. Headly, who sued the church in 2009 after years of rising through the ranks of the religious order of the Sea Org, testified that “it is policy that you do not call the police” without “specific permission”—and that “under Scientology law it would be a high crime” to report a fellow Scientologist to the police without permission.
Karin Pouw, spokesman for the Church of Scientology, flatly denied that such policies exist in the church. “The church has no policy that prohibits or discourages members from reporting criminal conduct by anyone, Scientologists or not, to the police,” Pouw said in a statement to HuffPost. She also called the stalking and harassment allegations “an attempted money grab” by the alleged victims who are also suing Masterson and the Church in a civil suit.
In conclusion, Anson said, “The church taught its victims, ‘Rape is not rape, you caused this, and most of all you should never go to the police,'” called Masterson “untouchable” due to his celebrity. status in Scientology, the AP reported.
On Thursday, while the jurors deliberated, Leah Remini posted a letter that she claimed to be a mother of one of the victims sent to Scientology leader David Miscavige in 2004, listing graphic details of Masterson’s alleged assaults. The mother concluded by asking if the church was trying to persuade her daughter to “commit perjury so their celeb can explore [sic] free” and whether “celebrities are exempt” from “justice codes”.
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 to appear on “That ’90s Show”, a Netflix follow-up series that debuted in January.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Online Sexual Assault Hotline or the The National Sexual Violence Resource Center website.