Danny Masterson's rape retrial: Accuser says Scientology attorney tried to intimidate her

Danny Masterson rape accuser says attorney who has worked for Scientology "stared at her with a really dead glare."

ByLisa Bartley KABC logo
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Danny Masterson retrial: Accuser says attorney tried to intimidate her
One of Danny Masterson's three accusers said said an attorney "stared at her with a really dead glare" during her testimony.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It was a riveting week at the rape trial of actor and celebrity Scientologist Danny Masterson, with two requests for a mistrial, an alleged victim accusing a Scientology attorney of witness intimidation, and a confrontation in the courtroom hallway that could have led to a mistrial.

The woman identified in court as "Jane Doe 1" returned to the witness stand on May 1, telling the jury that she was drugged, choked, and raped by Masterson in April of 2003 after she said Masterson threw her in the Jacuzzi at his Hollywood Hills home.

"I couldn't hold myself up, I couldn't see," Jane Doe 1 testified. "My head was spinning, almost an out of body experience... I couldn't breathe, I couldn't get air."

Jane Doe 1 said she told the Church of Scientology about the alleged rape, but instead of "handling" Masterson, she said she was punished by the Church for reporting him. She told the jury that her Scientology Ethics Officer told her she could not use the word "rape," she could not go to the police, or she'd be declared a "suppressive person," -- and that she was forced to go through an ethics program that included past life therapy to figure out what she had done to cause the rape.

"I was on a very extensive program... to see if I had any evil purposes to harm myself that caused this to happen -- had I raped anyone in a previous lifetime," Jane Doe 1 testified. "I was struggling with that concept."

Jane Doe 1 said she defied the Church by going to police in June of 2004, but after the LAPD closed her case without any charges, she testified she was pressured by Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon and Masterson's then-attorney Marty Singer to sign a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement.

Jane Doe 1 testified that she was told by Moxon that Scientology had already issued a "declare" order on her, and if she did not sign the NDA, she would be declared a Suppressive Person.

The husband of one of Danny Masterson's accusers told the jury "we have targets on our backs" from Scientology.

"What she said was that she had no choice but to sign because otherwise she'd be expelled from the Church, lose her family - everything," journalist Tony Ortega of The Underground Bunker told Eyewitness News.

On cross-examination, Masterson defense attorney Philip Cohen showed jurors bikini photos of Jane Doe 1 taken five days after the alleged rape -- asking how much pain could she have been in if she's smiling in the family vacation photos?

And Cohen wanted to know - how could she have seen a gun or the "look of hate" on Masterson's face, if his bedroom was pitch black?

Cohen also suggested that the Jane Does' civil lawsuit against Masterson, the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige is just a money grab.

Masterson has pleaded not guilty to charges that he "forcibly raped" three women between 2001 and 2003. The Church of Scientology says it has no policy that prohibits Scientologists from reporting any crimes to law enforcement, and that its members are expected to abide by all laws of the land.

Scientology has also said that it "is not a party to this case," but Church attorneys have been a presence in the courtroom.

Last week, Jane Doe 1 told the jury that attorney Vicki Podberesky, "stared at me with a really dead glare," and that it distracted her during her testimony, adding that Podberesky was sitting directly in her line of sight in the courtroom gallery.

"She represents the Church of Scientology and David Miscavige and every witness that we needed to testify," Jane Doe 1 testified.

"Vicki Podberesky is an attorney who has worked with Scientology for many years," said journalist Ortega. "Jane Doe 1 believed that she had made a gesture with her hair and had made some sort of face - and she felt it intimidated her and it was an attempt to intimidate her."

After Jane Doe 1 told the jury about her unease, Masterson defense attorney Philip Cohen told the judge he worried the jury would view this as, "potentially trying to intimidate a witness."

Attorneys with Podberesky's law firm and another firm representing Scientology in the civil lawsuit, were present for nearly every day of the first trial - which ended last fall with a hung jury.

Another attorney from Podberesky's law firm, Tabitha Zimbert, has been in the courtroom watching the retrial.

"These three women, these three victims are all suing the Church of Scientology, so it does make sense for Scientology to have an attorney there to watch what's going on," said Ortega.

Podberesky told Eyewitness News that while she has represented Scientology in the past, she does not currently represent "any named witness in this case." Podberesky did not respond to follow-up questions from Eyewitness News.

Also spotted in the courtroom gallery last week, a Reverend Skip L'Heureux, who was asked by Judge Charlaine Olmedo if he was affiliated with Danny Masterson or Scientology.

"I'm not affiliated, not a member - never have been," Reverend L'Heureux told the judge.

L'Heureux does, however, have a long history as a friend of Scientology. He's spoken as an advocate for freedom of all religions, including Scientology. Reverend L'Heurex has appeared at some Scientology events, he did a 2005 interview with CNN at Scientology's request, and co-signed a letter denouncing Judge Olmedo's rulings in the Masterson trial that some religious leaders claimed violated the separation of Church and State.

L'Heureux came to court with Eva Mahoney, who told Eyewitness News that she is a blogger with Scientology's "Stand League," a website that claims to fight all forms of anti-religious hate and speaks out against critics including the journalists covering the Masterson trial.

"Scientology is known for retaliating against ex-Scientologists and journalists," said Ortega. "They started up something that they call 'The Stand League' which they claim is a grassroots organization, but it's just another propaganda wing for the Church of Scientology."

"It regularly attacks Leah Remini, Mike Rinder and myself," said Ortega.

Aaron Smith-Levin is a former Scientologist who is covering the trial for his YouTube channel "Growing Up in Scientology."

Smith-Levin says he began speaking with the reverend in the hallway during a break - and then realized L'Heureux was with the "Stand League" blogger.

"In that 4-second interaction of my voice getting louder than normal in a relatively quiet hallway, I said the "F" word in front of the bailiff," Smith-Levin explained in one of his videos.

"The bailiff came over and said, 'woah, woah, woah' ... you got to show respect for the court... and it turns out there were still a few jurors nearby."

Back in the courtroom, attorneys on both sides told Judge Olmedo what they'd heard or seen of the confrontation or "brouhaha," as Masterson defense attorney Shawn Holley described it.

"What we heard was that the bald man shouted, 'Scientology is a cult,'" Holley told Judge Olmedo.

Co-counsel for Masterson Kate Mangels added that she heard someone yell about, "being a front for an (expletive) cult."

Masterson attorney Philip Cohen then asked for a mistrial, telling Judge Olmedo that "it's becoming impossible to obtain a fair trial at this point."

Five of the jurors told Judge Olmedo that they saw at least part of the confrontation, but none apparently heard the expletive or the word "cult."

All of questioned jurors said they could still be fair and impartial. Judge Olmedo denied Cohen's request for a mistrial and reminded everyone in the courtroom to not discuss the case in front of any potential jurors. The confrontation prompted Judge Olmedo to sequester the jury during the lunch break and have them escorted in and out of the building through a different elevator.

Defense attorney Cohen's second request for a mistrial came on Wednesday after Judge Olmedo cut off his cross-examination of Jane Doe 1 after she'd been on the witness stand for the better part of three days. Olmedo had warned Cohen the day before that she was only going to give him an additional forty-five minutes on cross Wednesday morning.

Judge Olmedo denied Cohen's request for a mistrial and pointed out that he'd had more time with Jane Doe 1 than the prosecutors - and that she'd admonished him repeatedly to stop asking questions about things that were, "marginally relevant," such as the temperature of the water in the jacuzzi at Masterson's home.

"Maybe the 2004 settlement agreement is more important than the temperature of the Jacuzzi," Judge Olmedo told Cohen. "But that's for you to decide."

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