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Prosecutors shared opening arguments in the retrial for Danny Masterson, after the actor was accused of rape. Learn all the details of the trial here.
Danny Masteron’s retrial for his rape case began on Monday, April 24. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller delivered his opening remarks, detailing the allegations, which led to multiple charges of rape from three women, per Deadline. The prosecutor spoke about what part the Church of Scientology allegedly played in the women coming forward at the start of the new trial and shared similar details to the original opening arguments.
The former That 70s Show star’s trial for three rape charges began on Tuesday, October 11, and on Nov. 30, 2022, a judge declared a hung jury, just days after it was reported that the jurors couldn’t reach a verdict a few days before, according to Variety. The judge advised them to start from scratch after Thanksgiving break and two jurors were replaced with alternates, due to the original two getting COVID on Nov. 28. After the new jury told the judge their votes on Nov. 30, it was concluded Danny could not get a conviction because, based on California’s statute of limitations, which doesn’t allow individual sexual assault allegations as old as the ones against Danny to be prosecuted, he needed to be found guilty in at least two of the charged cases, The Wrap reported. It was therefore, deemed a mistrial. However, on Jan. 6, 2023, Danny asked the court’s to use their “discretion” and dismiss the charges against him, per The Hollywood Reporter.
The actor, 47, was accused by three women of sexual assault back in 2017, and the women filed a lawsuit against him in 2019. The following year, Danny was arrested on three charges of rape from cases in 2003. Danny has moved for the case to be thrown out, but he has not succeeded. A trial was originally scheduled to begin in Los Angeles in August, but it was delayed until October.
Now that the trial has begun, Danny’s connection as well as three of his victims’ connections to Scientology has been shoved to the forefront of the trial. However, this angered Judge Charlaine Olmedo, who does not want Scientology to be at the center of discussion. During a break on Oct. 18, she stated (via Variety), “I understand these witnesses’ lives may have been completely inundated with Scientology. This trial is not going to be inundated with Scientology.”
Find out everything you need to know about Danny and the charges against him.
One of the new points that the prosecutor brought forward in the trial was an allegation that Danny had drugged the three women who have accused him of rape. Reinhold is also expected to call Kathleen Jenkins, who is not one of the Jane Does but also alleged that Danny raped her in 2000 at a party for Dracula 2000. He also detailed the alleged role that the Church of Scientology played in preventing the women, who are all former members, from coming forward. Reinhold said that the church has an “internal justice system,” and turns a cold shoulder to those who go to outside law enforcement for help. “If you’re a member of the church and you have an issue (like a rape) with another member … you are not permitted to go to law enforcement,” he said, per Deadline.
Leah Remini, who has been a longtime critic of Scientology since leaving the church in 2013, was also seated in the front row in court on Monday, April 24. The King Of Queens actress, 52, was reportedly subpoenaed by the defense and may be called on to testify as a “percipient witness to certain conversations,” according to one of the defense lawyers. Prosecutors may also call her as a witness as it pertains to Jane Doe #1.
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On the second day in court, the first witness, a woman who accused Danny of rape and wanted to be identified as Jane Doe #1, took to the stand where she recalled the alleged 2003 assault through tears, according to Deadline. Jane Doe #1 said she was violently raped in Danny’s Los Feliz home. “He was on top of me, his penis was inside of me …and that is what I awoke to,” she explained, the outlet reported. After Jane Doe #1 broke down in tears and repeatedly said on the stand, “I can’t do this,” the judge called for a recess. Jane Doe # 1 completed her testimony after the break.
The criminal trial against the actor began on October 11. The trial is separate from the civil lawsuit filed by four of Danny’s victims, who are also suing the Church of Scientology. The women have also spoken out against the church. During the early stages, Judge Olmedo commented on the role of the controversial church in a pre-trial hearing, per Variety. “This is not going to become a trial on Scientology,” she said.
On Nov. 14, over a month after the beginning of the trial, in which the other two Jane Does as well as a fourth woman, who accused Danny of rape, also testified, the actor opted to not testify in his own defense as the trial was close to conclusion, Variety reported. Judge Olmedo asked him if he had a chance to discuss his decision with his attorneys, and he confirmed that he had. The trial went into its closing arguments the following day and the jury went on to deliberate the verdict.
“Mr. Masterson has been sitting here in court for the last four weeks or so. He’s always well dressed and well groomed,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told the jury and courtroom gallery on Nov.15, according to The Wrap. “I can assure you these victims have a different image.”
“For them, he was someone who was the center of this circular world, group of friends, he was the upstat, he was the guy who would have parties at his house, say ‘Come over, have a drink!,’” Reinhold continued. “He was the guy who would spin a record, give you a drink, invite you to spend the night if you were drunk just to be safe. But if you were a young woman – which these victims were at the time – you were far from safe. Because if you were incapacitated in his bed, he would rape you.”
Defense Attorney Philip Cohen also made statements during the closing arguments, Variety further reported, and talked about the “contradictions” in the case, and suggested that prosecutors used Scientology as a crutch. “We heard Scientology over and dover again, so much so it became the go-to excuse. When someone got contradicted or forgot something Scientology is brought up,” he said. He also went on to highlight issues in each Jane Doe’s testimonies.
As the jury set off to make their decision at the end of the closing arguments, Danny’s wife, Bijou Phillips, who sat with him throughout the trial, apparently had to leave and wiped her face with a tissue. It was the only time she showed outward emotion during her time in the courtroom.
The jury told Judge Olmedo that they are “unable to reach a unanimous decision on any of the counts” against the actor in a note on Nov. 18, according to Variety. They were in deliberations for three days. However, she told the jurors that they have not deliberated long enough to declare a mistrial and instructed them to meet back on Nov. 28, after a weeklong break over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Unsurprisingly, Danny’s defense team said there has surely been enough time. They also claimed the Thanksgiving break would give jurors an opportunity to talk about the case with family members, which may influence their views on the trial.
On Nov. 30, the judge declared a hung jury after the jurors said they couldn’t come to a unanimous decision. “We are not even close to coming to a unanimous decision on any count, and are convinced this will not change,” a letter from the jury to the judge read, according to Variety. The jurors also reportedly advised the judge how they voted for each count and it included two for guilty and 10 for not guilty on Count 1; four for guilty and eight for not guilty on Count 2; and five for guilty and seven for not guilty on Count 3.
More recently, on Jan. 6, 2023, it came to light that Danny requested that the Los Angeles judge have the charges against him dismissed after the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on Nov. 30, 2022. Judge Olmedo declared a mistrial, as mentioned above, on Nov. 30 and set a new trial date for March. In a filing obtained by The Hollywood Reporter on Jan. 6, Danny’s lawyer, Philip Cohen, noted that the defendant has a right to “invite the court to exercise its discretion.” The filing read: “If the evidence will not materially change and a retrial is likely to result in acquittal or another hung jury, the fact suggests that dismissal would be in the interest of justice,” Philip wrote.
The lawyer went on, “Immediately following the pronouncement of a hung jury, the deliberating jurors, as well as the alternate, spoke freely and candidly in the jury room with all trial counsel. The clear sentiment of the jurors, virtually to a person, was that there were significant evidentiary and credibility problems with the government’s case. And while there was disagreement as to the ultimate vote, on one thing the jurors all appeared to agree — no reasonable jury was ever going to come to a unanimous finding of guilt on any count.”
He also noted that a future trial would likely not be “significantly different.” Danny’s lawyer concluded with the following: “Because there is absolutely no reason to conclude that this jury did anything other than its job, or that any future trial would be significantly different, this Court doesn’t just have the power to dismiss this case under [California Penal Code section 1385] as granted it by the Legislature, but it ‘should exercise’ such powers in the interests of justice.’” The next hearing will take place on Jan. 10.
Sexual assault allegations were first brought against Danny in March 2017 Three women accused the actor of sexually assaulting them, although the That 70s Show star has denied the claims. After the claims came out, The Mars Volta frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala came forward and said that his wife Chrissie Carnell Bixler was one of the victims in a since-deleted tweet. Danny was fired from the Netflix series The Ranch in December 2017. Shortly after his firing, Bobette Riales came forward to accuse him of raping her. Two years after the investigation was launched, four women, two of whom were listed as Jane Does, as well as Chrissie and Bobette, filed a lawsuit against Danny and the Church of Scientology, citing stalking and harassment.
Following the 2019 filing, Danny singled out one of the victims and said he was prepared for the legal battle from the lawsuit. “I will beat her in court — and look forward to it because the public will finally be able learn the truth and see how I’ve been railroaded by this woman. And once her lawsuit is thrown out, I intend to sue her and the others who jumped on the bandwagon for the damage they caused me and my family,” he said in a statement to People.
The lawsuit isn’t the subject of the October trial though. In June 2020, Danny was arrested and charged with allegedly raping three women for incidents between 2001 and 2003. The alleged victims were a 23-year-old woman in January and December 2001, another 23-year-old in October and December 2003, and a 28-year-old in April 2003. The Men At Work star’s attorney Tom Mesereau maintained his innocence in a statement at the time. “Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out. The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false,” he said. After pleading “not guilty” in 2021, Danny was released on bail.
As mentioned above, the women suing Danny have also filed their lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. Danny is a member of the church, and three of the women who have accused him are former members, including Chrissie and her husband. The women claimed that they were pressured to not share their allegations by the church, and since coming forward, the victims have claimed to be harassed by the church. The Mars Volta singer has claimed that Scientologists harassed his family and even poisoned their family dog, after the allegations came out. In since-deleted social media posts, Cedric claimed that people have gone by his house, harassed his family on social media, slashed tires and more, via MetalSucks.
During a pre-trial hearing, the women spoke about being worried to come forward with their allegations, due to his involvement in the church. The church denied pressuring the women in a statement to The New York Times, following Danny’s firing from The Ranch. “What is being stated is utterly untrue,” the organization said. “This has nothing to do with religion. This story is being manipulated to push a bigoted agenda.”
The highly questioned, yet still mystic religion was brought up during the opening statement by lead prosecutor Reinhold, as reported by Variety. “They can declare you a suppressive person,” Reinhold said, purposely painting the church in an unpleasant light. “You are essentially an enemy of the church. Your friends, your parents — if you have children who are part of the church — they all have to detach from you. Essentially you lose everything.”
Jane Doe No. 1, the first witness to take the stand, also brought up the supposed restrictive teachings of the religion. “The goal of Scientology is to clear the planet,” she claimed in front of the Los Angeles courtroom.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Phillip attempted to convince the jury to not get distracted by the stories about Scientology they will hear. “This case is about three women who are going to tell you about three nights almost 20 years ago,” he stated, per Deadline. “This other stuff is truly the elephant in the room.” He also showed the jury a cloud of words that was shaped into an elephant. “Scientology” was one of the words included in the cloud.
Jane Doe No. 1 recalled an alleged sexual interaction that occurred with the former beloved actor during her first testimony. She claimed Danny was feeding her double and triple alcoholic beverages while they were partying in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles before allegedly assaulting her. She previously said while she thought this encounter was consensual, she later determined that it was not, describing it as feeling “incestuous” because she and Danny were so close at that point of time. The alleged incident happened in 2002 and is not included in her lawsuit against him.
Meanwhile, the defense hit back and claimed there were discrepancies in Jane Doe’s story as well as a lack of evidence.
Danny has been romantically involved with Bijou, 42, since 2004. The couple eventually got married in October 2011, and they share a daughter Fiona, 8. Through all the allegations, Danny and Bijou have stayed married. In Danny’s lawyer’s statement, she was mentioned as also being “shocked” by the allegations, and she seems to be standing by him.
Danny has been in the entertainment business for most of his life. He was child model and later teen actor, appearing in commercials. His most well-known role continues to be his part in That 70s Show, where he played Steven Hyde for all eight seasons. He’s appeared in movies such as Face/Off (1997) and Dracula 2000 (2000). Since the sitcom ended, he’s had roles in the series Men At Work from 2012 to 2014 and The Ranch from 2016 to 2018. After the allegations came out, Danny was fired from The Ranch in December 2017. Netflix released a statement about his firing. “As a result of ongoing discussions, Netflix and the producers have written Danny Masterson out of ‘The Ranch,’” the company said.
While Danny hasn’t appeared in anything since getting written off The Ranch, he has been announced as part of the cast of Killing Winston Jones, which is said to be completed, and the upcoming film In Limbo, per IMDb.
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