Actor Danny Masterson was sentenced to 30 years in prison for rape. There were two trials, graphic allegations and a Scientology factor that loomed large in court.
What's happening on Thursday?
Masterson was sentenced in a Los Angeles courthouse as he faced 30 years to life in prison for rape. In May, he was found guilty of two out of three counts of forcible rape. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office retried the case after a mistrial was declared in November.
Who is Danny Masterson and what is he known for?
Masterson is an actor best known for his role on That '70s Show. He played Steven Hyde, starring alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Wilmer Valderrama in the sitcom, which aired from 1998 to 2006. He reunited with Kutcher in Netflix's The Ranch, but that was short-lived, as he was fired in 2017. Masterson is also one of the Church of Scientology's most famous members.
When did these allegations surface?
In March 2017, the LAPD confirmed an investigation had been launched after three women reported being sexually assaulted by the actor in the early 2000s. He denied all allegations in a strongly worded statement and noted that one accuser was a longtime girlfriend.
What consequences did he face pretrial?
None of real significance until the #MeToo movement got rolling in October 2017. The investigation made renewed headlines as the movement swept through Hollywood. Netflix fired Masterson in December 2017, and he hasn't worked since.
What happened with the 1st trial?
After a years-long investigation, Masterson went on trial In October 2022 for three counts of forcible rape. All charges stemmed from three alleged victims who met him through Scientology (they are former members of the church). The women — Jane Does 1, 2 and 3 — all had similar stories. They claimed they were violently sexually assaulted at Masterson's home in the Hollywood Hills in the early 2000s. A mistrial was declared in November after a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on any of the three charges.
Why is the Church of Scientology involved?
One alleged victim went to the police after the alleged rape but claimed she withheld some information to protect the church. Two of the three women testified that they reported the abuse through proper channels within Scientology, but that it was essentially covered up. The third woman said she was too afraid of the church to report the rape. All three were then supposedly put through ethics programs and warned against reporting anything to police, because Masterson is a member of higher standing within the organization. The women all claim they've been harassed by the church since coming forward. The church denies having any policy that forbids members from going to police.
What happened during the 2nd trial?
The prosecution vowed to retry the case, and it did — and there were reportedly two key differences the second time around. The DA's office homed in on Masterson's alleged drugging of the women before assaulting them. In the first trial, the judge had not allowed the term "drugging" and the women could only describe their disorientation. The Church of Scientology was also mentioned more in the second trial, as the judge ruled that further evidence related to the church could be heard. Scientology's policies and procedures were called into question, including its alleged intimidation tactics. Clearly, the new strategies worked. A jury found Masterson guilty of two of three counts of rape. It could not reach a verdict on the third count, that the actor had allegedly raped a longtime girlfriend.
Anything else worth pointing out?
Masterson declined to testify in either trial, and he has maintained his innocence. The defense called no witnesses during the retrial, and his legal team's strategy was basically to try to discredit the women. Masterson's wife (and fellow Scientologist), Bijou Phillips, supported him in court. However, longtime friends like Kutcher did not show up. Ex-Scientologist Leah Remini attended both trials to support the women. Remini has been very vocal against the organization since leaving in 2013 and is suing the church and its leader, David Miscavige, alleging years of "psychological torture" and intimidation tactics similar to those described by Masterson's accusers. The church has denied all of Remini's claims.
See a full timeline of the case, six years in the making.