Jury in Danny Masterson rape trial deliberates after closing arguments

ByLeanne Suter and Lisa Bartley via KABC logo
Thursday, November 17, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

The fate of actor and celebrity Scientologist Danny Masterson is now in the hands of a jury after four weeks of emotional testimony.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The fate of actor and celebrity Scientologist Danny Masterson is now in the hands of a jury after four weeks of emotional testimony.

Masterson has pleaded not guilty to three counts of forcible rape for incidents with three women between 2001 and 2003. Masterson did not testify in his own defense but has maintained that all of the sex was either consensual or did not happen. If he's convicted of all three charges, he could face up to 45 years to life in prison.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller painted Masterson as a sexual predator, telling jurors that, "No never means no for Mr. Masterson -- not if you're in his bed, in his house."

"You have the opportunity to hold this defendant responsible and show him that no actually means no," said Mueller.

Defense attorney Philip Cohen told jurors that the prosecution wants to win this case so badly they've "ignored the blatant, obvious, overwhelming contradictions and fabrications that each Jane Doe has given."

PROSECUTION CLOSING ARGUMENTS

Mueller started his closing arguments by explaining that the charges are "rape by force or fear," meaning that, among other things, the defendant accomplished the intercourse by "whatever force is necessary to overcome... just enough to break that person's will."

Mueller pointed at Masterson and told the jury that while the defendant is "always well groomed, well-dressed and looks like a gentleman," the accusers "know him to be a quite different person."

"He was right at the center of this tight group of friends, he was the 'upstat,'" Mueller said, using a Scientology term for someone with a higher status in the church.

"The guy who would have parties at his house. The guy who would invite you over, come have a drink. He'd spin a record and if you got a little too intoxicated, he'd invite you to spend the night -- just to be safe."

But Mueller said the women were "far from safe."

"Because if you were incapacitated in his bed, he would rape you. If you were incapacitated elsewhere in his house, he could come and find you. And if you were at his home and not yet intoxicated, he would offer you the alcohol to get you there and then forcibly rape you."

Mueller reminded jurors of testimony from their expert witness Dr. Mindy Mechanic, who said that around 60% of women sexually assaulted by someone they know, never accept or "label" the incident as sexual assault or rape.

"It's complicated, it's not black and white," Mueller said. "You know this person; you don't want to be a victim and you don't want to call him a rapist -- despite the fact that he is."

Mueller reviewed what each of the three women testified to about the alleged rapes.

Jane Doe 1 told the jury that Masterson raped her in April 2003 at his Hollywood Hills home after he gave her one "red, fruity drink." She testified that he threw her in his jacuzzi, then dragged her upstairs where he helped her vomit. She says she went unconscious several times and woke up to him raping her on his bed.

"When she awoke, he was still on top of her," Mueller told the jury. "She reached for his throat, and he put his hand around her neck and squeezed until she passed out again."

"I thought I was going to die," Mueller recounted of Jane Doe 1's testimony.

Mueller reminded jurors that Jane Doe 1 testified that at one point when they heard a voice outside the bedroom door, Masterson allegedly pulled out a gun.

"He does not point it at her -- he displays it," Mueller said. "He tells her, 'Don't f---ing move.'"

Mueller told the jury to consider whether it's "reasonable" to believe that Jane Doe 1 consented to sexual intercourse with Masterson right after he's allegedly put his fingers down her throat to help her vomit and told her, "You're so f---ing disgusting with vomit in your hair."

"I just vomited all over myself and my hair," he said. "But let's do it, it's a perfect time to have sex."

Mueller acknowledged that the only photos they have from the week or so following Jane Doe 1's alleged rape show her smiling on a family vacation. "She's with her cousin and a photo is being taken so she smiled."

"We wish we had more photos," Mueller told the jury, noting this was back in 2003. "But the photos show bruising on her hip and Rachel (Jane Doe 1's cousin) saw more bruises."

Mueller noted that there are "no charges against Scientology." But he argued that the religion played a significant role in how the women behaved including their fear of reporting the alleged rapes to law enforcement.

"Deputy DA Mueller said you can't separate Scientology from this case," says journalist Tony Ortega who has been covering the trial at The Underground Bunker. "I mean these women were Scientologists at the time. They were following Scientology policies and it did affect the way this case was investigated."

Jane Doe 1 told jurors that she reported her alleged rape by Masterson to her Scientology ethics officer, who she says told her not to use the word "rape" and not to go to police. If she did go to police, it would be considered a "high crime" and she'd be declared a suppressive person, according to Jane Doe 1's testimony.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw said, "Contrary to Jane Doe #1's allegations, the Church does not discourage anyone from reporting any alleged crime nor tell anyone not to report any alleged criminal conduct."

"Quite the opposite, said Pouw. "Church policy demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land."

Jane Doe 1 eventually did go to the LAPD in 2004, but no charges were filed. She ultimately agreed to sign a settlement and non-disclosure agreement with Masterson after a Scientology attorney showed up at her home. She testified that she faced the choice of either signing the agreement and accepting a $400,000 payment or being declared a suppressive person.

"That was her world," Mueller told the jury. "Everything she knew would go away. That was not much of a choice for her."

Jane Doe 3 has publicly identified herself as Chrissie B. She dated and lived with Masterson for six years and told jurors that while he was initially "very charming," he became "sexually aggressive" about a year into their relationship.

Mueller recounted two alleged rapes of Chrissie B. by Masterson, one in November 2001 and one in December 2001. Masterson is only charged with the alleged November incident because Chrissie B. was unconscious during the alleged December incident and it's unlikely force was necessary.

"They're not charging the second one which happened in December -- which was an unconscious sodomy," says Ortega. "The reason they're not charging is it doesn't fit California's definition of a forcible rape which includes the commission of an act through force or fear. She was unconscious, so they can't use that particular definition."

Mueller explained to the jury that Chrissie B. focused on the December alleged rape when she reported it to Scientology -- and years later to police -- because the November alleged rape was "normal" for their relationship, while the December alleged rape "broke her heart."

She says she regained consciousness the next day with intense anal pain. Chrissie B. testified she asked Masterson what happened and that he laughed and told her he'd had sex with her "down there."

Chrissie B. testified that when she reported Masterson to Scientology, she was put through "weeks of ethics handling," and was told to figure out what she'd done to "pull it in."

"Why?" Mueller asked. "Because he's an upstat, and it's different rules for an upstat."

Mueller went on in his closing arguments to recount Jane Doe 2's testimony that she was allegedly raped by Masterson in late 2003. She told jurors that Masterson asked her to come to his Hollywood Hills home and she thought it might lead to romance or dating.

"For her, that night was to have a date with Mr. Masterson," Mueller recounted. "But that's the last thing that happened -- there was no date with Masterson."

Jane Doe 2 says she repeatedly told Masterson there would be "no sex." Mueller told the jury she was OK with flirting and kissing but she set conditions. "Her ultimate dead drop no is to have sex," said Mueller.

Jane Doe 2 testified that things "went blurry" after Masterson gave her a glass or two of wine. She says Masterson demanded that she get into his jacuzzi and later raped her in his upstairs bedroom.

Mueller sought to explain to the jury why Jane Doe 2 stayed at Masterson's home for several hours after the alleged rape, why she called him a week later and why she did not initially label the incident as rape.

"I could not think of it as rape, that would have made my life horrible," Mueller recounted of Jane Doe 2's testimony. "I knew that would sink my whole emotional and mental life in having to process the feelings of shame. It was too much to process. I had to make it something else to survive it."

DEFENSE CLOSING ARGUMENTS

Masterson defense attorney Philip Cohen began his closing arguments by telling the jury, "I have been waiting so long for this -- this case has been maddening for me."

Cohen zeroed in on some inconsistencies in the women's accounts and that jurors must find "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

"You must not let bias, sympathy, public opinion or prejudice influence your decisions," Cohen told the jury.

"You know who's not listed on this case -- the Church of Scientology," Cohen said, calling Scientology a "go to" excuse for the prosecution. "We did a word search last night. Over 700 times in this trial the word Scientology was mentioned."

"You don't have to like Mr. Masterson -- it doesn't matter," said Cohen. "You don't have to like Scientology -- it doesn't matter."

Cohen again displayed the photos taken of Jane Doe 1 on her family vacation the week after the alleged rape and asked the jury if she looked like someone who was "10 out of 10" on the pain scale, as she testified.

"Is that evidence that tends to disprove (Jane Doe 1's) testimony," Cohen asked. "Mueller can argue all he wants -- bruises everywhere. You look at that picture and think - hey, perhaps (Jane Doe 1) was not truthful."

Cohen also argued that the three accusers have a motivation to lie, in part because they have a pending civil lawsuit against Masterson and the Church of Scientology.

"That's your reasonable doubt right there," Cohen stated.

Cohen said that one of the themes of the prosecution's case was to paint Masterson as a "commanding, scary, abusive monster."

So, why Cohen asked, did the women agree to go to his home? Why did they maintain some contact with him after the alleged rapes?

"Chrissie B. invites this monster rapist out with her and her friends," Cohen said. "She then goes back to this monster rapist's hotel room."

"She had post-break up sex because she was not afraid of him, she was not raped by him," Cohen argued. "Is that a reasonable conclusion? Because if it is -- you must accept that."

Cohen attempted to cast doubt on the prosecution theory that it took time for all three of the women to process the incidents and accept that the incidents were rape. He also suggested that Jane Doe 1 made up the gun as part of an alleged conspiracy between the women to target Masterson.

"If you go back to 2004 when she first went to the LAPD -- there's nothing in their reports about a gun," Ortega said. "She has claimed that she did mention the gun and the detective didn't include it."

"Cohen made a very pointed reference near the end of his closing arguments," said Ortega. "Do you believe Jan Doe One? Or do you believe the LAPD detective?"

Got a tip? Email ABC7 Investigative Producer Lisa.Bartley@abc.com