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1 Jun, 2023 11:45

US sitcom star guilty of rape

Danny Masterson was one of several Hollywood figures accused of sexual misconduct after the emergence of the #MeToo movement
US sitcom star guilty of rape

Danny Masterson, star of popular US sitcom ‘That ‘70s Show’, was found guilty on Wednesday of raping two women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. He faces up to 30 years in prison.

Masterson, 47, who is a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, denied the charges. The jury of seven women and five men were unable to return a verdict on a third rape allegation. The trial followed a three-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.

“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,” one of Masterson’s victims, whom the jury concluded was raped in 2003, said following the verdict.

Masterson’s defense had argued that the acts were entirely consensual.

At the time of the assaults, Masterson and his three accusers were all members of the Church of Scientology. The women said during the trial that they had been told by figures within the group to rely on Scientology’s “internal justice system” instead of taking their claims to the authorities – an allegation which prosecutors described as an attempt by the church to cover up the attacks.

The prosecution told the court that one of the women had been threatened with expulsion from the church if she pursued charges, and had been offered $400,000 in return for signing a nondisclosure agreement. The Church of Scientology denied the allegations.

The defense attempted to establish that the victims’ claims were not credible and were motivated by a desire to seek “revenge” against the Church of Scientology. Before closing arguments, a lawyer with links to Scientology contacted the district attorney’s office to state objections as to how the church was being portrayed in the trial.

Masterson was first accused of rape in 2017 at the height of the #MeToo movement, which was sparked by the conviction of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on numerous charges of sexual assault. The actor said at the time of the allegations that “it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.” 

Masterson was taken into custody in handcuffs following the verdict, after being deemed a ‘flight risk’ by Judge Charlaine Olmedo. A date for sentencing has not been set, although a motion hearing is due on August 4.