Actor Danny Masterson, pictured in 2017. (Photo: Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
A mistrial has been declared in Danny Masterson‘s rape case. The That ’70s Show star, 46, was charged with forcibly raping three women from 2001 to 2003. Masterson pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence through his lawyers, but opted not to take the stand during high-profile trial at the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse. Masterson faced up to 45 years in prison if he’d been convicted on all counts.
In a note to the judge, jurors said, “We are not even close to coming to a unanimous decision on any count, and are convinced this will not change,” per Variety.
Jurors initially deliberated for three days beginning on Nov. 15, but the group couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the three charges of forcible rape. The judge released the panel on Nov. 18 and ordered the members back to court 10 days later. When jurors returned on Monday, they had to start deliberations over as two members tested positive for COVID-19 over the break. The judge replaced those jurors with two alternates. The jury originally comprised seven women and five men, and later six men and six women. On Wednesday afternoon, the jury said it was deadlocked.
A retrial date has been set for March 27, 2023.
Despite the defense team’s best effort to distance the case from the Church of Scientology, of which Masterson is one if the most prominent members, the controversial religion loomed large over the month-long trial. Three Jane Does who accused Masterson of rape are former Scientologists and claimed their allegations against the actor were suppressed by the church. They claim they’ve been threatened and harassed in recent years to keep quiet. The church has denied such allegations.
“There are no charges against Scientology. But Scientology cannot be avoided,” Deputy Los Angeles County District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said in his closing arguments, pointing to rules within the organization that caused the Jane Does to remain silent for so long. “Fear of going to law enforcement… certain statements about what is rape and what is not rape. You can’t avoid it. These are victims who have had the church as part of their life.”
Masterson’s defense lawyer claimed the prosecution kept bringing up Scientology to bias the jury against his client. During closing statements, attorney Philip Cohen tried to discredit the women over “inconsistencies” in their stories.
Jane Doe No. 1 took the stand and claimed she was anally penetrated her against her will in 2002. She testified she had to speak with a church ethics officer and was “forced to make peace” with Masterson. In 2003, she claimed she was raped at Masterson’s house after she believes he slipped something in her drink while she was in the Jacuzzi. Jane Doe No. 1 emotionally told the jury how she remembered waking up in in the actor’s bed with him on top of her, and when she tried to shove him away, he held her down and grabbed her throat.
“I just couldn’t breathe,” she sobbed, adding she thought “I was going to die.”
The woman claimed she reported what happened to a Scientologist Ethics Officer and claimed the person covered it up. Although Jane Doe No. 1 was scared of being excommunicated from the church, she went to the police and filed a report in 2004. Soon after, the accuser was paid $400,000 in installments in order to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which she broke at trial.
Jane Doe No. 2 testified she was raped by Masterson after he invited her to his house in 2003. The actor purportedly gave her a glass of wine and told her to get in the Jacuzzi when she started to feel “numb.” The woman alleged she was later penetrated against her will, telling the jury after she felt “awful. Out of it. Scared. In pain. Just a rag doll — not totally in charge of my faculties.” She couldn’t process that what happened was rape.
“In the church, he was more important than me at the time. That would have made my life horrible. You’re not allowed to accuse someone of anything that’s against the law,” she said.
A former longtime girlfriend of Masterson’s, known as Jane No. 3, testified that the actor raped her while she was sleeping in 2001. After having a glass or two of wine during dinner, the woman woke up the next morning in his home and “noticed my whole body hurt. The back of my head hurt and I noticed that I was injured in my bottom.”
Jane Doe No. 3 said she confronted Masterson.
“I asked him, ‘what happened last night?’ I asked him if I had fallen because I was hurting ‘down there,'” she testified. “He laughed at me and said he had sex with me there.” The woman claimed she asked Masterson if she was unconscious the whole time. “He said ‘yes.'”
The woman said there was “no asking, no loving” when it came to their sex-life.
“A lot of times, it would happen where I would be asleep and I would wake up to him having sex with me,” she said. “That was normal. It was the only thing I knew … that was just how it was.”
Jane Doe No. 3, who is involved in a separate civil case against Scientology, said she’s not after money but is trying to stop the “terror campaign that this criminal organization has put upon me or my family.”
A fourth accuser, who was never a member of the Church of Scientology, was allowed to testify despite objections from the defense. Jane Doe No. 4 claimed Masterson raped her twice, though her allegations didn’t lead to charges. Her story mirrored those of the other women as she claimed in 1996, she fell asleep in Masterson’s home and later awoke with him having sex on top of her.
Masterson has been out on $3.3 million bail since his 2020 arrest. Sexual assault allegations first surfaced against the actor, whose credits also include Face/Off, Dracula 2000 and the series The Ranch, in 2016 and the Los Angeles Police Department launched an investigation. Public scrutiny intensified when the #MeToo movement swept through Hollywood the following year.
Masterson has been married to Bijou Phillips, who is also a Scientologist, since 2011 and the two share an 8-year-old daughter. Phillips has publicly supported Masterson amid the scandal and showed up to court every day for four weeks. Actor Billy Baldwin, who is married to Bijou’s younger singer, Chynna Phillips, also appeared in court to support the family. Meanwhile, ex-Scientologist Leah Remini publicly lent support to many of Masterson’s accusers.
MORE: Harvey Weinstein, Danny Masterson’s rape trials mark watershed moment for #MeToo
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