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As it happenedended1694262739

Danny Masterson’s trial support letters from Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis revealed

Victims condemn Church of Scientology and ‘coward’ former sitcom star as judge dismantles defence case

Oliver O'Connell,Inga Parkel,Tom Murray
Saturday 09 September 2023 13:32 BST
Actor Danny Masterson found guilty on two counts of rape

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Louise Thomas

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Danny Masterson received letters of support from Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher ahead of his sentencing, it has been revealed.

Masterson, 47, was given a sentence of 30 years to life in a Los Angeles court on Thursday for the rapes of two women two decades ago.

It has since emerged that his That 70’s Show co-stars Kunis and Kutcher were among 50 people who wrote letters of support before the sentencing.

In their letters, published by Los Angeles-based court reporter Meghann Cuniff, the couple vouched for Masterson’s “exceptional character” and pleaded for Judge Charlaine Olmedo’s leniency.

A jury found Masterson guilty of two counts in May after seven days of deliberations. Both attacks took place in Masterson’s Hollywood Hills home in 2003, when he was at the height of his fame on the Fox network sitcom.

The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on a third count, an allegation that Masterson also raped a longtime girlfriend.

Prosecutors alleged that Masterson used his prominence in the Church of Scientology — where all three women were also members at the time — to avoid consequences for decades after the attacks.

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Sitcom actor Danny Masterson faces sentencing today

That 70s Show star Danny Masterson could get as much as 30 years to life in prison at his sentencing Thursday for the rapes of two women two decades ago.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo is set to sentence the 47-year-old actor after ruling on a defence motion for a new trial that she’s very likely to reject, and after hearing impact statements from the victims.

A jury of seven women and five men found Masterson guilty of two counts on 31 May after seven days of deliberations. Both attacks took place in Masterson’s Hollywood Hills home in 2003 when he was at the height of his fame on the Fox network sitcom.

The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on a third count, an allegation that Masterson also raped a longtime girlfriend.

The verdict came in a second trial after a jury failed to reach verdicts on three counts of forcible rape in December and a mistrial was declared.

Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 15:22
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Did Scientology play a role in the aftermath of rapes?

Prosecutors alleged that Masterson used his prominence in the Church of Scientology — where all three women were also members at the time — to avoid consequences for decades after the attacks.

The women blamed the church for their hesitancy in going to the police about Masterson. They testified that when they reported him to Scientology 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.

“They were raped, they were punished for it, and they were retaliated against,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told jurors at the trial. “Scientology told them there’s no justice for them.”

The church said in a statement after the verdict that the “testimony and descriptions of Scientology beliefs” during the trial were “uniformly false.”

“The Church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone — Scientologists or not — to law enforcement,” the statement said.

AP

Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 15:38
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What were the allegations and could Masterson appeal?

Masterson did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses. The defence argued that the acts were consensual, and attempted to discredit the women’s stories by highlighting changes and inconsistencies over time, which they said showed signs of coordination between them.

The women whose testimony led to Masterson’s conviction said that in 2003, he gave them drinks and that they then became woozy or passed out before he violently raped them.

Olmedo allowed prosecutors and accusers to say directly in the second trial that Masterson drugged the women, while only allowing the women to describe their condition in the first.

Masterson was not charged with any counts of drugging, and there was no toxicology evidence to back up the assertion. The issue could be a factor in a planned appeal from the defence of Masterson’s conviction.

AP

Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 15:53
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Who is Masterson?

Masterson, 47, an actor since childhood, got his major break when he was cast as Stephen Hyde on the retro sitcom That 70s Show, which also starred Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace and would run on Fox from 1998 until 2006.

At the time of the alleged assaults, his career was at its peak, and his house near Hollywood with a backyard pool and Jacuzzi was a social hub. It was also, according to prosecutors, the scene of all three crimes. Masterson had pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have repeatedly denied all of the allegations.

AP

Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 15:58
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Who were Masterson’s accusers?

The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they were victims of sexual abuse.

The first accuser

One of the women Masterson is convicted of raping was born into a Scientology family and was part of Masterson’s circle of friends. Nearly all of those closest to her were members, including the late Lisa Marie Presley, who also left the church long before her death in January.

The woman said that when she stopped by Masterson’s house to pick up a set of keys in 2003, he gave her a drink that left her sick and badly disoriented, and raped her in his bedroom upstairs. She first filed a police report, which did not lead to an arrest, in 2004. She returned to authorities in 2016.

Jurors found her account credible and convicted Masterson based on her allegations.

The second accuser

A model and actor who was Masterson's girlfriend from 1996 to 2002 took the stand to open the trial. She previously testified that Masterson grew increasingly physically and sexually abusive in their years together. She said that it eventually led to him raping her twice late in 2001, though he is only charged with one instance, a morning when she woke to find Masterson raping her. She would go to the police 15 years later.

Jurors could not agree on a verdict on her allegations, deadlocking 8-4 in favour of conviction.

The third accuser

The third woman at the centre of the trial had only recently met Masterson through mutual friends in the church, which she had joined as a teenager. She testified that in 2003 that Masterson invited her to his house, where they were alone. She said she was clear that she wanted no sex, but he convinced her to get into his jacuzzi and then took her to his bed, where he raped her. She went to the police in 2017.

Jurors convicted Masterson based on her testimony.

AP7 September 2023 16:08
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Leah Remini, noted Scientology critic, reacts to Danny Masterson verdict
Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 16:20
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Have Masterson’s former co-stars spoken about the case?

Actor Ashton Kutcher, who starred alongside Masterston on That 70s Show and The Ranch, commented on the case back in January.

Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher (Getty Images)
Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 16:28
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Who is Danny Masterson’s wife, Bijou Phillips?

The trial and conviction of Bijou Phillips’s husband Danny Masterson joins a long list of scandals she has encountered throughout her life. For those who aren’t familiar, here’s a little background on the sitcom star’s wife.

Who is Danny Masterson’s wife, Bijou Phillips?

Bijou, daughter of The Mamas & The Papas lead musician John Phillips, and his third wife Geneviève Waïte, met Masterson in 2004 and tied the knot with ‘That 70s Show’ lead in 2011

Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 16:55
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What happened during deliberations?

Jurors deliberated for more than a week before reaching a verdict.

Actor Danny Masterson's rape retrial sees deliberations drag on again

Jurors have been deliberating for nearly seven days without reaching a verdict in the rape retrial of “That ’70s Show” star Danny Masterson

Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 17:20
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How did Masterson’s lawyer challenge allegations?

Masterson’s attorney challenged his former longterm girlfriend during her testimony at the trial as to why new details had emerged in her account of when she claimed the actor raped her in 2001.

Read more...

Danny Masterson lawyer challenges new details in rape story

An attorney for Danny Masterson challenged his former girlfriend on why her trial testimony alleging the actor raped her in 2001 included new details that were missing from the accounts she first gave authorities

Oliver O'Connell7 September 2023 17:50

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