The actor Danny Masterson, known for his roles in the sitcom “That ’70s Show” and the Netflix comedy “The Ranch,” before he was fired in 2017 amid sexual assault allegations, has been on trial in Los Angeles on charges that he raped three women at his home in the Hollywood Hills in the early 2000s.
Masterson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of forcible rape. Opening arguments began on Oct. 18, and the trial is expected to last four weeks. Masterson could face 45 years to life in prison if convicted.
What are the allegations?
According to a trial brief filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Masterson raped a woman, identified only as Jen B., in April 2003 after she went to his house to pick up keys and he gave her a red vodka drink. About 20 or 30 minutes later, she felt “very disoriented,” the brief states.
According to the brief, Masterson raped her after she regained consciousness on his bed. She reached for his hair to try to pull him off and tried to push a pillow into his face, it states. When Masterson heard a man yelling in the house, he pulled a gun from his night stand and told her not to move or “say anything,” adding expletives, the document states.
The trial brief says that Masterson raped a second woman, identified only as Christina B., who had been in a relationship with him and had lived with him for six years.
In November 2001, the document says, she awoke to Masterson “having sex with her” and told him to stop. “I fought back,” she said, according to the document. “I tried pushing him off me and saying, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’” She also pulled his hair, and he hit her, the document states.
In December 2001, she had one or two glasses of wine at a restaurant with Masterson and woke up naked in her bed the next morning, feeling that it hurt to sit down or go to the bathroom, the brief states. She said she went downstairs and confronted Masterson, and he acknowledged having sex with her while she was unconscious, the document states.
The brief says that Masterson raped a third woman, identified only as N. Trout, who occasionally saw him at parties and gatherings and, like him, was in the Celebrity Centre branch of Scientology.
Sometime between October and December of 2003, she went to his house, where he handed her a glass of wine and told her to take off her clothes and get in his hot tub, where “everything started becoming blank,” the brief states. He assaulted her in the shower and on a bed, the document states. She told him, “No, I don’t want to do this,” according to the document.
How is the Church of Scientology involved?
The trial has involved accusations by two of the women that the Church of Scientology, to which they and Masterson belonged, discouraged them from reporting the rapes to law enforcement.
After seeking the church’s permission, verbally and in writing, to report the rape, Jen B. received a written response from the church’s international chief justice that cited a 1965 policy letter regarding “suppressive acts,” the brief states.
To her, the response signaled that if she were to report a fellow Scientologist to the police, “I would be declared a suppressive person, and I would be out of my family and friends and everything I have,” the brief states. Still, she reported the rape to law enforcement in June 2004, the document states.
The woman identified as Christina B. said that when she reported the rape to the church’s “ethics officer” or “master at arms,” the officer told her, “You can’t rape someone that you’re in a relationship with” and “Don’t say that word again,” the document states.
The officer showed her “policies and things in the Ethics Book about high crimes in Scientology.” One of them was “reporting another Scientologist to law enforcement,” she said, according to the brief.
She understood that, if she went to the police, “the church would have ultimately destroyed” her and declared her a “suppressive person,” the document states.
The woman identified as N. Trout told her mother and best friend about the rape, but not the church, the brief states.
“If you have a legal situation with another member of the church, you may not handle it externally from the church, and it’s very explicit,” she said, according to the brief. She added that she “felt sufficiently intimidated by the repercussions.”
What does the church say?
The church has strongly denied that it pressures victims. It has accused prosecutors of injecting Scientology into the trial and misrepresenting its doctrines and beliefs “to stir up passion and prejudice in the uninformed,” it said in an emailed statement on Oct. 21.
“The church does not discourage anyone from reporting any alleged crime nor tell anyone not to report any alleged criminal conduct,” it said in the statement. “The church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of Scientologists, or of anyone, to law enforcement. Quite the opposite. Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land.”
What does Masterson say?
A lawyer representing Masterson said in a statement in 2020 that the actor was innocent and that Masterson and his wife were in “complete shock” that the “nearly 20-year-old allegations” had resulted in charges. “The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false,” the lawyer, Tom Mesereau, said.
Philip Cohen, who is representing Masterson in the trial, has sought to limit discussion of Scientology in court, telling the judge last month that it would unfairly bias the jury and force the defense to fight a “war on two fronts,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
But the judge, Charlaine F. Olmedo of California Superior Court in Los Angeles County, found that Scientology was relevant to the case, and that the women could testify about their belief that church policy discouraged them from reporting the accusations to law enforcement, The Times reported.
Source: NY Times