US actor Danny Masterson was found guilty of two out of three charges of rape by a jury in Los Angeles.
The TV series That ’70s Show’s star could spend up to 30 years in prison. He was brought handcuffed out of court.
According to the prosecution, Masterson used his notoriety as a famous Scientologist as a shield from responsibility.
After a week of deliberations, the jury of eight women and five men could not agree on a decision on a third count, coming to an 8-4 deadlock.
I am feeling a complex range of feelings, including relief, tiredness, strength, and sadness, knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will be held accountable for his illegal behaviour; one of his victims who was raped in 2003, according to a statement cited by the Associated Press.
According to CBS News, actress and model Bijou Phillips wept as Masterson was being brought away. Other relatives and friends sat expressionless.
In December 2022, a different jury in an earlier trial could not decide.
Attorneys decided to retry Masterson; this time, the judge permitted them to include fresh evidence excluded from the earlier trial.
At the height of #MeToo movement in 2017, Masterson was accused of rape for the first time. In response to it, he said that he had never ever been charged with any crime or found guilty and that, given current political climate, “it seems like you are presumed guilty the very moment you are accused.”
After a three-year long crucial investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, charges were filed. Due to insufficient evidence and the passing of the statute of limitations, prosecutors decided not to press charges in two other cases.
Prosecutors claimed throughout the trial that the Church of Scientology had assisted in covering up the assaults, a claim that the group has vehemently refuted.
All three of Masterson’s accusers were Scientologists at the time of the assaults. Many women claimed it took them years to come forward because Church of Scientology leaders allegedly told them not to call the police about the rape.
Instead, according to the prosecution, they were compelled to use the Church’s “internal justice system”.
Prosecutors claim that authorities from the Church of Scientology threatened one survivor with expulsion unless she consented to a non-disclosure agreement and a payment of $400,000 (£320,000).
Both parties were permitted to debate the beliefs and methods of Scientology by Judge Charlaine Olmedo.
However, during the trial, deputy district attorney Ariel Anson remarked to the jury, “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 defence worked to discredit the “Jane Does” throughout the trial by highlighting discrepancies in their testimony and their purported desire for “revenge” on their former Church.
Suppose you’re searching for reasons why individuals aren’t being truthful. In that case, there are motives everywhere, the defence attorney for Masterson stated during the final arguments of the case, referring to the survivors.
Even though the Church of Scientology was not a defendant in the case, a lawyer with connections to the Church sent a complaint email to the district attorney’s office before the start of the closing arguments.
Masterson’s attorneys made an unsuccessful attempt to declare a mistrial.