Danny Masterson found guilty of rape, faces 30 years in prison

A Los Angeles jury has convicted American actor Danny Masterson on two counts of rape, with the That ’70s Show star potentially facing up to 30 years in prison. The actor was led from the courtroom in handcuffs after the verdict. Three women, all former Church of Scientology members, accused Masterson of sexually assaulting them at his Hollywood residence between 2001 and 2003. Prosecutors claimed that the actor used his prominent position within the Church of Scientology to evade responsibility.

The jury, consisting of seven women and five men, could not reach a unanimous decision on the third count, resulting in a deadlock of 8-4 after a week of deliberations. In December 2022, a previous jury was unable to agree on a verdict, leading to a retrial in which new evidence was permitted.

Although Masterson was not charged with drugging the victims, the jury heard testimony that the women had been given drugs before the assaults took place. The actor was first accused of rape in 2017, during the height of the #MeToo movement. At the time, he stated that he had not been charged or convicted, and that it seemed as if one was “presumed guilty the moment you are accused” in the current climate.

The verdict followed a three-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Two other cases were not pursued due to insufficient evidence and the expiration of the statute of limitations. Throughout the trial, it was argued that the Church of Scientology had assisted in concealing the assaults, a claim the organisation vehemently denies. At the time of the incidents, both Masterson and his accusers were members of the church.

Several women claimed that they had been discouraged from reporting the assaults to the police by Church of Scientology officials, which is why it took them years to come forward. According to prosecutors, one survivor was told she would be expelled from the church unless she signed a non-disclosure agreement and accepted a payment of US$400,000 (£320,000). Judge Charlaine Olmedo allowed both parties to discuss the beliefs and practices of Scientology during the trial.

Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson told jurors, “The church taught his victims, ‘Rape isn’t rape, you caused this, and above all, you are never allowed to go to law enforcement.'” The defence attempted to discredit the Jane Does by highlighting inconsistencies in their testimonies and their alleged desire for “revenge” against the church. Masterson’s defence lawyer argued during closing statements, “If you are looking for motives why people are not being truthful… there are motives all over the place.”

Although the Church of Scientology was not a defendant in the case, a lawyer associated with the church emailed the district attorney’s office to complain about the church’s portrayal during the retrial. The defence also contended that the prosecution relied heavily on drugging testimony due to a lack of evidence of force or violence. Masterson’s legal team unsuccessfully sought to declare a mistrial.

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Lilly Larkin

Lilly is a writer with a diverse international background, having lived in various countries including Thailand. Her unique experiences provide valuable insights and culturally sensitive perspectives in her news reporting. When not writing, Lilly enjoys exploring local art scenes, volunteering for community projects, and connecting with people from different cultures.