A Los Angeles jury found Danny Masterson guilty Wednesday of two of three rape charges, capping a contentious retrial filled with graphic testimony and the looming influence of the Church of Scientology.
Jurors were hung on the third count of rape. Masterson, 47, is now staring down a maximum sentence of 30 years behind bars—15 for each conviction. The minimum sentence for a rape conviction in California is three years.
The That ’70s Show star was reportedly handcuffed at the defense table and held there as the courtroom filed out Wednesday. He’ll remain in custody until his sentencing hearing on Aug. 4.
Relatives of Masterson reportedly fought back tears in the public gallery after the verdict was read. Masterson’s wife, Bijou Phillips, became so emotional a judge threatened to remove her if she couldn’t stay composed, reported independent journalist Meghann Cuniff.
Each of Masterson’s three accusers alleged that the That ’70s Show star raped them in the early 2000s after he slipped drugs into their drinks. Despite the alleged assaults occurring nearly two decades ago, prosecutors said victims were fearful of coming forward initially because the Church of Scientology—of which Masteron and the victims were members—forced them to stay silent.
Los Angeles cops began investigating Masterson in 2016, but formal charges didn’t come until 2020. Masterson went to trial last fall, but jurors were deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. Reports at the time said a majority of jurors were in favor of acquitting Masterson on all counts.
Five months after the hung jury, Masterson’s retrial began in late April. Prosecutors’ arguments were largely the same, with an added emphasis that Masterson’s three accusers became dizzy and discombobulated after they were served drinks by the actor and subsequently raped.
Prosecutors alleged that Masterson raped the women as they bounced in and out of consciousness. When the women tried to speak up after the assault, prosecutors claimed they were silenced by Scientology officials and Masterson, who claimed the rape never occurred and demanded they stay away from law enforcement.
Ariel Anson, a deputy district attorney, argued during the trial that Masterson “carefully sought out his prey.”
“Most of his victims are members of the Church of Scientology, and that makes sense,” Anson said. “The church tells his victims: ‘Rape isn’t rape. You cause this. And above all, you can’t go to law enforcement.’”
Masterson’s accusers were identified in court by partial names—Chrissy B., Jen B. and N. Trout. Just like the first trial, Masterson never testified and his attorneys called no witnesses, instead relying on cross-examination to undermine each accuser’s credibility.
The defense singled out Chrissy specifically, asking why the woman—who was dating Masterson at the time—was willing to stay with the actor in his home and hotels while allegedly being sexually assaulted.
Philip Cohen, a defense attorney, emphasized there was no forensic evidence that anyone was drugged or raped by Masterson. He also claimed the accusers had a slew of inconsistencies that were ignored by prosecutors.
“She did a very nice job of ignoring many of them,” Cohen said of prosecutors. “What she views as little inconsistencies are at the heart of trying to determine, is somebody reliable, credible, believable enough for a criminal conviction?”
Chrissy alleged that Masterson regularly had sex with her while she slept. Despite alleging multiple rapes, the lone incident jurors were tasked to decide on occurred in November 2001— when Chrissy claims she woke up during an assault and fought back. Despite her efforts, she said Masterson hit her and continued to rape her.
Trout alleged an equally chilling assault. She said Masterson’s brutality made her throw up in her mouth as he assaulted her. When her pleas for him to stop weren’t enough, she claims she begged Masterson to at least put a condom on.
Jen said she was raped by Masterson after they went out for drinks in Hollywood. Once home, she said Masterson pulled out a gun and suffocated her with a pillow after he drugged one of her drinks.
Masterson vehemently denied all wrongdoing from the jump. He appeared calm while arriving at court for closing arguments Tuesday, walking into the court alongside Phillips with a Starbucks drink in hand.
His defense repeatedly dismissed Scientology’s influence on the trial, saying allegations about the church’s alleged cover-up were to cover for a weak case by the government.
Many church members reportedly attended the trial, sometimes arguing with critics just outside the courtroom, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Reports suggest the powerful church may have been more than just a spectator, however. Vicki Podberesky, who is serving as Scientology’s outside counsel, reportedly possessed a “large quantity” of restricted discovery materials and used it to bring a complaint to the district attorney’s office, the Times reported.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller called Podberesky’s involvement “extremely troubling,” and said it’s a mystery how evidence made it outside the courtroom. Podberesky told the Times she obtained all documents legally.
Leah Remini, an actress and former Scientology member, was enraged that the church inserted itself into the trial so shamelessly.
“Scientology has no reason to have criminal discovery materials in its possession,” she tweeted last week. “No reason at all. Scientology, which SHOULD be a co-defendant in this trial, has repeatedly lied, saying it has no covert involvement in this trial.”
While not part of Masterson’s criminal trial, the church was sued by the actor’s accusers in 2022. The accusers claim Scientology conspired with Masterson to intimidate them into staying quiet. That civil case is still pending.
The post ‘That ’70s Show’ Star Danny Masterson Finally Found Guilty of Rape 20 Years Later appeared first on The Daily Beast.