Danny Masterson has been found guilty of two counts of forcible rape against two women who were also former members of the Church of Scientology, of which the That ’70s Show star is also a member.
The verdict was read Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, some six weeks after the retrial started. Masterson’s wife, actress Bijou Phillips, let out a wail when the verdict was read. Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo reprimanded the actress, telling her to keep her composure or leave the courtroom.
Masterson was immediately remanded into custody due to the “violent nature of the crimes” and posing a flight risk. His next court date is scheduled for Aug. 4. While the embattled actor was found guilty on two counts, the jury deadlocked on the third count of rape. Masterson faces up to 30 years in prison. The jury — comprised of seven women and five men — deliberated for just over a week.
Back in November, Olmedo declared a mistrial after the jury came back deadlocked. This time around, prosecutors accused Masterson, 47, of drugging his alleged rape victims and being a “predator” who thought he could shield himself behind the Church of Scientology’s protection.
“It all starts with a drink,” said deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson on Tuesday in closing arguments, via Deadline. “How many times have you heard the defendant ask, would you like a drink? This is his play book, this is what he does…how he ensures to get what he wants.”
Anson repeatedly hammered home that point, while alleging that Masterson essentially used the Church of Scientology as hunting ground for his next victim.
“Like all predators, the defendant carefully sought out his prey,” she said. “What better hunting ground?”
Anson added in her closing arguments, via Deadline, “The defendant drugged his victims to be in control. When he drugs them, he is completely able to control them …and he does it over and over and over again.”
The retrial didn’t come without controversy outside of court. Olmedo became furious on May 10 after learning that a lawyer with the Church of Scientology had somehow come into possession of trial evidence. According to Deadline, prosecutors could refer the leak to the LAPD or the California State Bar for a possible violation of the victims’ rights statute known as Marsy’s Law. Olmedo also warned about potential consequences.
Masterson’s legal team rested its case on May 12 and did not call any witnesses.
The retrial ends more than three years after Masterson was ordered to stand trial on charges that he raped three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. At the time, the judge said she “found all three witnesses to be credible and the evidence sufficient to support the charges.”
Masterson, who pleaded not guilty to three counts of forcible rape, was accused of raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001. According to prosecutors, the actor was also accused of raping a 28- and 23-year-old woman he allegedly invited to his home sometime between October and December 2003.
The actor was ultimately arrested on June 17, 2020 and released three hours later after posting $3.3 million bail. He’s been out on bail ever since. The sexual assault accusations first surfaced in 2017, following a report that Masterson was the subject of an LAPD investigation. Masterson would later release a lengthy statement claiming, among other things, that the women only came forward with their accusations after they were contacted by Leah Remini, a former member of the Church of Scientology and driver behind the A&E docuseries, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, which aimed to shed light on the church.
Just months after the LAPD confirmed the sexual assault allegations probe, Masterson was fired from his Netflix series The Ranch in December 2017.
Masterson — along with the Church of Scientology — are also defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by the Jane Does, claiming they were victims of a harassment campaign that started after they came forward with their accusations against the actor. That civil suit’s reportedly on pause and could resume later this year.
Source: ET Online