Danny Masterson: That 70s Show star found guilty of rape as Church of Scientology takes centre stage
The US actor found out his fate in Los Angeles alongside his wife Bijou Phillips on Wednesday
Having attended the trial accompanied by his wife Bijou Phillips, Masterson was led from the courtroom in handcuffs and his partner left weeping in the aftermath. Masterson avoided the third count - which involved allegations that he had drugged his victims - after a jury which consisted of seven women and five men were unable to reach a verdict following one week of deliberations.
The verdict comes after three women, including a long-time girlfriend all of whom are former members of the Church of Scientology, accused the American actor of sexual assault from his Hollywood home between 2001 and 2003. Prosecutors had argued that Masterson relied on his status as a prominent scientologist to avoid any accountability for the attacks.
One of the victims, who was raped in 2003, issued a statement quoted by the Associated Press which reads: "I am experiencing a complex array of emotions - relief, exhaustion, strength, sadness - knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will face accountability for his criminal behaviour."
Masterson was first accused of rape at the peak of the #MeToo movement back in 2017, but it took three years of investigation by Los Angeles Police Department to make charges . He was initially trialled in December 2022 but a jury were unable to reach a verdict, so prosecutors decided to retrial Masterson and the judge allowed attorneys to present evidence that had been barred previously.
The women testified that they had initially reported Masterson to high ranking officials at the Church of Scientology, but were told that they were not raped and were subsequently put through ethics programmes and warned against going to law enforcement to report a member of his standing and reputation.
District attorney Reinhold Mueller told jurors during his closing argument: "They were raped, they were punished for it, and they were retaliated against. Scientology told them there’s no justice for them. You have the opportunity to show them there is justice."
The church have come out to deny having any policy that forbids members from going to secular authorities. It is understood that a lawyer with ties to the Church emailed the district attorney's office to complain about the way the Church was portrayed during the Masterson retrial.
Masterson did not give any evidence over the course of the trial and his lawyers called no witnesses. It is expected that his representation will appeal against the actor's convictions.