Danny Masterson found guilty of two counts of rape in Los Angeles retrial

Michelle Fisher Image
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Danny Masterson found guilty of two counts of rape in retrial
Jurors in a Los Angeles courtroom found "That '70s Show" actor Danny Masterson guilty of two counts of rape on Wednesday and deadlocked on a third count.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Jurors in a Los Angeles courtroom found "That '70s Show" actor Danny Masterson guilty of two counts of rape on Wednesday.

The jury announced a guilty verdict on two counts of forcible rape against two women, while deadlocking on a third count.

The actor was charged with raping three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. It was the second rape trial for Masterson after the first ended in a deadlock and mistrial.

The jury was handed the case May 17 after just over a day of closing arguments from attorneys. They spent nearly eight days in deliberations.

Masterson was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. He will be held without bail until he is sentenced. No sentencing date has yet been set, but the judge told Masterson and his lawyers to return to court Aug. 4 for a hearing.

The 47-year-old actor could face 30 years to life in prison.

His wife, actor and model Bijou Phillips, wept as he was led away. Other family and friends sat stone-faced.

"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 the women, whom Masterson was convicted of raping at his home in 2003, said in a statement.

Representatives for Masterson declined comment after the trial.

The jury deadlocked over accusations from a woman identified during the trial as Chrissie B., an ex-girlfriend of Masterson. She later released a statement that read in part: "While I'm encouraged that Danny Masterson will face some criminal punishment, I am devastated that he has dodged criminal accountability for his heinous conduct against me."

Last Thursday afternoon, the downtown L.A. panel re-heard portions of testimony from one of the alleged victims, who was a former longtime girlfriend of Masterson. The seven-woman, five-man jury had previously asked to re-watch portions of a videotaped interview and to look at transcripts from that interview between the same woman and two Los Angeles Police Department detectives in January 2017.

The jury is the second to hear the case against Masterson, 47, who was charged in 2020 with three counts of rape by force or fear involving the three women on separate occasions.

During last year's trial, jurors leaned in favor of acquittal on all three counts -- voting 10-2 on one count, 8-4 on another and 7-5 on the third -- but they were unable to reach a unanimous decision, leading to the mistrial on Nov. 30.

Prosecutors confirmed in January that they wanted to retry the actor, and Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo rejected a defense effort to have the charges dismissed.

During the second trial, the prosecution took aim at the Church of Scientology -- which was not a defendant in the case. But prosecutors argued the church was a "hunting ground" for Masterson.

Masterson is a member of the church, and all three of his accusers were members at the time of the alleged rapes.

In a statement to Eyewitness News after the verdict was announced, the church said the prosecution's "introduction of religion into this trial was an unprecedented violation of the First Amendment."

The church also rejected allegations that it harassed Masterson's accusers.

"The Church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone -- Scientologists or not -- to law enforcement. Quite the opposite, Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land. All allegations to the contrary are totally FALSE."

After the verdict, actress Leah Remini, a former church member-turned-critic issued a statement that read in part: "...I am relieved that Danny Masterson is facing some justice after over two decades of brutal sexual violence with no criminal consequences."

In his final argument, Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told the jury, "This defendant drugged and raped each one of these victims. ... It is time to hold Mr. Masterson accountable for what he has done."

Defense attorney Philip Kent Cohen had urged jurors during his closing argument to acquit his client, questioning the credibility of the alleged victims.

Masterson's lawyer said he was not alleging that there was some "grand conspiracy" against his client, but told jurors the alleged victims have spoken with each other despite an LAPD detective's admonition and that their accounts have been tweaked throughout the years.

He said there was no forensic evidence to support the prosecution's contention that the alleged victims' drinks had been drugged by Masterson.

Masterson has been free on bail since his June 2020 arrest by the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division.

In December 2017, Netflix announced that Masterson had been fired from the Emmy-winning scripted comedy "The Ranch" amid sexual assault allegations.

The actor said then he was "very disappointed," and added that "it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused." He also "denied the outrageous allegations" and said he looked forward to "clearing my name once and for all."

Material from The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.