“That ’70s Present” actor Danny Masterson on trial on 3 rape fees

Danny Masterson, former star of the long-running sitcom “That ’70s Present,” is about to face three girls in court docket who say he raped them twenty years in the past at a trial whose key figures are all present or former members of the Church of Scientology.

Opening statements may start as early as Tuesday within the Los Angeles trial of the 46-year-old Masterson, and whereas a choose has expressed her willpower to not have the church develop into the middle of the proceedings, it is going to inevitably loom massive.

Masterson is charged with raping the ladies between 2001 and 2003 in his house, which functioned as a social hub when he was on the peak of his fame. Masterson has pleaded not responsible to the fees.

One of many girls had been Masterson’s longtime girlfriend. One other was a longtime pal, and the third a more recent acquaintance.

All three had been members of the Church of Scientology, as Masterson nonetheless is. All three accusers have since left, and so they stated the church’s insistence that it deal internally with issues between members made them hesitant at first to go to authorities.

“This isn’t going to develop into a trial on Scientology,” Superior Court docket Choose Charlaine F. Olmedo asserted at a pre-trial listening to. However she stated she would enable its dialogue as a motive why the ladies delayed reporting to authorities.

Testimony at a preliminary listening to final 12 months to find out whether or not Masterson ought to go to trial final 12 months included frequent use of Scientology jargon that attorneys needed to ask the witnesses to elucidate. And the trial’s witness checklist is stuffed with members and former members of the church, which has a powerful presence in Los Angeles and has counted many well-known figures amongst its members. The checklist contains former member Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley and former spouse of Michael Jackson.

Masterson’s preliminary lawyer within the case,Thomas Mesereau, emphasised his shopper’s Scientology connections, saying his arrest was the results of anti-religious bias from police and prosecutors. The lawyer tried unsuccessfully to subpoena alleged communications between the accusers and actor Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who has develop into on of the church’s foremost detractors, authoring a e-book and internet hosting a documentary sequence.

Masterson’s lead lawyer for the trial, Phillip Cohen, seems to be taking the alternative method, looking for in a pretrial movement to attenuate mentions of the establishment, which has garnered a lot damaging publicity lately due to outstanding dissidents like Remini. Some potential jurors have been dismissed primarily based on their opinions of the church.

“I feel leaving the Church of Scientology out of it’s a good plan,” stated Emily D. Baker, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor who now works as a authorized analyst and podcaster. “I do not assume most people has an overwhelmingly optimistic view, I feel there may be a number of skepticism.”

Deputy District Legal professional Reinhold Mueller, the lead prosecutor, might need to tread fastidiously on the topic too.

“It could possibly really feel heavy handed when you might have the federal government bringing somebody’s faith right into a prosecution,” stated Baker, who shouldn’t be concerned within the case. “I feel there’s a cautious line to be thought of. The church shouldn’t be on trial, you do not need to give jurors a way that you are going after it.”

Masterson is charged with three counts of rape by pressure or concern, which may imply as much as 45 years in jail if if he is convicted.

Ultimately 12 months’s preliminary listening to, one lady testified that they had been 5 years right into a relationship when she woke to Masterson raping her one evening in 2001.

One other, a onetime pal of Masterson’s who had been born into Scientology, testified that, in 2003, he had taken her upstairs from the recent tub at his Los Angeles house and raped her in his bed room.

The third lady stated Masterson raped her on an evening in 2003 after texting her to come back to his home. She testified she had set boundaries and was clear there was to be no intercourse.

One of many girls, Masterson’s pal, sad with the best way the Scientology ethics board dealt with her criticism about him, filed a police report in 2004 that did not lead to fees. In 2016, she related and shared tales with the lady who says she was raped whereas in a relationship with Masterson. Every would file a police report that 12 months. Masterson’s former girlfriend stated she did so after telling her story to her husband, who helped her perceive that she had been raped. The third lady went to police in 2017.

Masterson’s then-attorneys instructed of their cross-examination of the ladies that each one had retroactively reframed consensual intercourse as rape, and stated the age of the incidents made correct reminiscences inconceivable.

The Related Press doesn’t sometimes title individuals who say they had been victims of sexual abuse except they arrive ahead publicly.

Masterson was one of many first Hollywood figures to be prosecuted within the #MeToo period. His is certainly one of a number of high-profile sexual assault circumstances which have gone to trial across the fifth anniversary of the reporting of accusations in opposition to Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, which remodeled the #MeToo motion into a global reckoning.

Weinstein’s second rape and sexual assault trial — he is already been convicted in New York — is occurring concurrently, simply down the corridor from Masterson’s. In New York, civil trials have begun for actor Kevin Spacey and for screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, who’re each being sued for sexual assault.

Haggis is himself a Scientology dissident, and the choose in that case is permitting him to argue that the church is behind the allegations in opposition to him.

From 1998 till 2006, Masterson starred as Steven Hyde on Fox’s “That ’70s Present,” which made stars of Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace and is getting an upcoming Netflix reboot with “That ’90s Present.”

Masterson had reunited with Kutcher on the Netflix comedy “The Ranch” however was written off the present when an LAPD investigation was revealed in December 2017.

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