LOS ANGELES (AP) – A jury on Wednesday found “That ’70s Show” star Danny Masterson guilty of two counts of rape in a Los Angeles trial in which the Church of Scientology played a central role.
The jury of seven women and five men reached the verdict after deliberating seven days over two weeks. They could not reach a verdict on a third count, that Masterson allegedly raped a longtime girlfriend. He voted 8-4 in favor of conviction.
Masterson was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. The 47-year-old actor could face up to 30 years in jail.
His wife, actor and model Bijou Phillips, broke down in tears as he was being taken away. Other family and friends sat stone-faced.
“I’m experiencing a complex array of emotions — relief, exhaustion, strength, sadness — knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will face accountability for his criminal behavior,” said one of the women whom Masterson called. He was convicted of rape in his house. 2003, said in a statement.
The woman, whose count left the jury deadlocked, said in the statement: “While I am encouraged that Danny Masterson will face some criminal punishment, I am devastated that he has brought criminal charges against me for his heinous conduct.” Accountability has been dodged.”
Prosecutors, who retried Masterson after a deadlocked jury mistrial in December, said he forcibly raped three women, including a former girlfriend, between 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood Hills home. , He said he used his prominence in the church – where all three women were also members at the time – to avoid consequences for decades.
Masterson did not testify, and his attorneys called no witnesses. The defense argued that the acts were consensual, and attempted to discredit the women’s stories by highlighting changes and inconsistencies over time, which they said showed signs of coordination among them.
In his closing arguments, defense attorney Philip Cohen told jurors, “If you decide that a witness knowingly lied about something in this case,” you should not believe anything the witness says. Must consider.
The Church of Scientology played a significant role in the first trial but arguably an even greater role in the second. Judge Charlene F. Olmedo allowed expert testimony on church policy from a former official in the Scientology leadership who has become a prominent opponent.
Tension ran high in the courtroom between current and former Scientologists, and even as testimony leaked, the accusers said on the stand that they felt intimidated by some members in the room.
Actor Leah Remini, a former member who has become the church’s highest-profile critic, sat in on the trial several times, putting her arm around one of the accusers and comforting him during arguments.
Ale. Founded in 1953 by Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology has many members who work in Hollywood. The judge placed limits on how much prosecutors could speak about the church, and allowed the chief to explain why it took so long for the women to go to the authorities.
The women testified that when they reported Masterson to church officials, they were told that they had not been raped, that they had been put through self-morality programs, and that they were told to go to law enforcement to protect such a high-ranking member. Was warned against reporting.
“She was raped, she was punished for it and she was retaliated against,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Müller told jurors in his closing arguments. “Scientology told them there is no justice for them. You have an opportunity to show them that there is justice.
The church denied any such policy forbidding members from approaching secular authorities.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted.
The testimony in this case was graphic and emotional.
Two women, who knew Masterson from social circles at church, said he gave them drinks and caused them to become paranoid or unconscious before violently raping them in 2003.
The third, Masterson’s then-girlfriend of five years, said she woke up to find him raping her, and pulled her hair to stop him.
The issue of drugging also played a major role in the retrial. At first, Olmedo only allowed prosecutors and the accused to describe their disorientation, and implied that they were intoxicated. The second time, he was allowed to argue directly, and the prosecution attempted to make it a major factor, to no avail.
In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson said, “The defendant takes drugs to gain control over his victims.” “He does this in order to take away his victims’ ability to give consent.”
Masterson was not accused of any drugging, and there is no toxicology evidence to support this claim. His lawyer asked for a mistrial to include the issue. The motion was denied, but the issue is likely to be a major factor in any potential appeal.
The allegations date from a period when Masterson was at the height of his fame, starring as Steven Hyde on Fox’s “That ’70s Show” from 1998 to 2006 — the show that made stars of Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace. .
Masterson reunited with Kutcher on the 2016 Netflix comedy “The Ranch”, but was dropped from the show in December 2017 when the LAPD investigation was revealed.