‘That 70s Show’ Fame Actor Danny Masterson Faces Trial On Three Rape Cases
In a trial whose key figures are all current or former members of the Church of Scientology, former “That ’70s Show” star Danny Masterson will face three women who allege he raped them two decades ago. The trial of 46-year-old Masterson is set to begin on Tuesday in Los Angeles, and while the judge has said she does not want the church to be at the center of the proceedings, it will loom large regardless.
Reveals Crime That Happened Two Decades Ago
Masterson is accused of raping the women in his home between 2001 and 2003. At this time, he was at the height of fame and popularity. Masterson has entered a plea of not guilty. A long-term girlfriend of Masterson’s was among the group. One was a close friend, another was an old acquaintance, and the third was a new one.
All three, including Masterson today, were active participants in the Scientology religion. The three accusers have since left the church and told interrogators that they were at first hesitant to report the incident because of the church’s insistence on handling member disputes internally.
Last year, at a preliminary hearing, witnesses frequently used Scientology jargon that lawyers had to ask them to explain to determine whether or not Masterson should go to trial. Many prominent people from Los Angeles’s entertainment industry have been church members, and they are all listed as potential witnesses in the ongoing trial. Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis and ex-wife of Michael Jackson, is among those who have left the group.
Thomas Mesereau, Masterson’s first attorney, highlighted his client’s ties to Scientology and claimed that his arrest resulted from anti-religious bias by police and prosecutors. The attorney made an unsuccessful attempt to subpoena alleged communications between the accusers and former Scientologist and now prominent church critic, actor Leah Remini. Remini has written a book and hosted a documentary series criticising Scientology.
Phillip Cohen, Masterson’s lead attorney, seems to be taking the opposite approach, seeking in a pretrial motion to minimise mentions of the institution, which has garnered much negative publicity in recent years thanks to prominent dissidents like Remini. Several prospective jurors were disqualified because of their negative religious beliefs.
Former Los Angeles County prosecutor turned legal analyst, and podcaster Emily D. Baker said, “I think leaving the Church of Scientology out of it is a good plan.” “I don’t think there’s an overwhelmingly positive view among the general public; I think there’s a lot of scepticism.” Even the main prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller, might want to be careful when discussing this.
If found Guilty, the Star will have to end his career
Masterson faces up to 45 years in prison if he is found guilty of the three counts of rape by force or fear he is accused of committing. One of the women who testified against Masterson in the preliminary hearing last year said that they had been together for five years when she woke up to him raping her one night in 2001. Another woman, a former friend also born into the Scientology religion, testified that Masterson raped her in his Los Angeles bedroom in 2003 after she had come up from the hot tub.
The lawyers representing Masterson at the time suggested during cross-examination that all women had retroactively reframed consensual sex as rape and that the passage of time rendered reliable recollections impossible. Unless the alleged victim makes a public statement, the Associated Press does not typically publish the identity of the person who claims to have been the victim of sexual abuse.
Masterson was one of the first prominent Hollywood figures to face charges during the #MeToo movement. Around the time that would have been the fifth anniversary of the reporting of accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who transformed the #MeToo movement into an international reckoning, several high-profile sexual assault cases went to trial.