Danny Masterson, the actor best known for his role in That ’70s Show, has been found guilty of two counts of rape and faces up to 30 years in prison. The verdict was reached after a seven-day deliberation by a jury of seven women and five men in a Los Angeles retrial. Masterson was accused of forcibly raping three women, including a longtime girlfriend, in his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. The prosecution argued that Masterson drugged the women’s drinks to rape them and used his prominence in the Church of Scientology, where all three women were also members, to avoid consequences for decades. Masterson did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses.
The Church of Scientology played a significant role in the trial, with tensions running high in the courtroom between current and former Scientologists. The judge allowed expert testimony on church policy from a former official in Scientology leadership who has become a prominent opponent. The women testified that when they reported Masterson to church officials, they were told they were not raped, were put through ethics programs themselves, and were warned against going to law enforcement to report a member of such high standing. Masterson’s wife, actor and model Bijou Phillips, wept as he was led away in handcuffs.
The issue of drugging also played a major role in the retrial, with the prosecution attempting to make it a major factor. Masterson was not charged with any counts of drugging, and there is no toxicology evidence to back up the assertion. These charges date to a period when Masterson was at the height of his fame, starring from 1998 until 2006 as Steven Hyde on Fox’s That ’70s Show. Masterson had reunited with Ashton Kutcher on the 2016 Netflix comedy The Ranch, but was written off the show when an LAPD investigation was revealed in December 2017.
The verdict is a significant moment in the #MeToo movement, as it marks the first high-profile celebrity conviction since the movement began. It also highlights the power dynamics at play in Hollywood and the influence of organizations like the Church of Scientology. Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from organizations like Rainn in the US, Rape Crisis in the UK, and 1800Respect in Australia.
Keywords: Danny Masterson, rape, Hollywood, Church of Scientology, drugging, #MeToo movement.
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