Danny Masterson, a well-known American actor, was found guilty on two counts of rape.
Danny Masterson, a US actor, was convicted guilty of rape on two of three charges by a jury in Los Angeles.
The star of the TV show That ’70s Show faces up to 30 years in prison. In handcuffs, he was escorted from court.
Three women, all former Church of Scientology members, accused the actor of sexual abuse at his Hollywood residence between 2001 and 2003.
Prosecutors claimed Masterson used his celebrity as a Scientologist to evade accountability.
After a week of deliberation, the jury of seven women and five men was unable to reach a decision on a third count, ending up deadlocked at 8-4.
In a statement reported by the Associated Press, one of his victims, who was raped in 2003, stated, “I am experiencing a complex array of emotions – relief, exhaustion, strength, sadness – knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will face accountability for his criminal behavior.”
In December 2022, another jury in an earlier trial was unable to reach a verdict.
Prosecutors elected to retry Masterson, and the court this time allowed prosecutors to present additional evidence that had been excluded in the first trial.
Despite the fact that the actor was not charged with drugging his victims, the jury heard testimony suggesting the women had been dosed prior to the rape.
Masterson was accused of rape for the first time in 2017, during the height of the #MeToo movement. He replied that he had not been prosecuted or convicted of any crime, and that in the current context, “it appears as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.”
The charges were filed following a three-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Prosecutors did not pursue charges in two additional cases due to a lack of evidence and the statute of limitations having expired.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors claimed that the Church of Scientology assisted in covering up the assaults, which the organization strongly rejected.
Masterson and all three of his accusers were Scientologists at the time of the assaults. Several of the women stated it took them years to come forward because leaders from the Church of Scientology discouraged them from reporting the rape to police.
Prosecutors said they were compelled to depend on the Church’s “internal justice system” instead.
According to authorities, Scientology leaders threatened one survivor with expulsion unless she signed a non-disclosure agreement and took a $400,000 (£320,000) payment.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo enabled both parties to debate Scientology’s ideology and practices.
During the trial, however, Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson told jurors, “The Church taught his victims, ‘Rape isn’t rape, you caused this, and above all, you are never allowed to go to law enforcement.”
The defense attempted to undercut the credibility of the “Jane Does” throughout the trial by highlighting on inconsistencies in their testimony and their alleged desire for “revenge” on their former Church.
“If you’re looking for motives why people aren’t being truthful… there are motives all over the place,” Masterson’s defense counsel said of the survivors during closing arguments.
Although the Church of Scientology was not a defendant in the case, a lawyer with ties to the Church emailed the district attorney’s office before closing arguments to protest about how the Church was depicted during the retrial.
The defense also claimed that the prosecution relied primarily on drug-related testimony because there was no evidence of any force or violence.
Masterson’s attorneys attempted, but failed, to have a mistrial declared.