Danny Masterson Trial: Mistrial Explained In ‘That ’70s Show’ Actor Rape Trial

LOS ANGELES — A judge on Wednesday declared a mistrial after a jury said they were hopelessly deadlocked at the trial of That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson, who was charged with three counts of rape.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo had ordered the jury to take Thanksgiving week off and continue deliberating after telling her Nov. 18 that after a month-long trial in which the Church of Scientology played a supporting role.

Masterson, 46, was charged with the rape of three women, including a former girlfriend, at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. He pleaded not guilty and his attorney said the crimes were all consensual. All three women were then members of the Church, and Masterson remains one.

“I find the jury hopelessly deadlocked,” said Judge Charlaine Olmedo after asking if there was anything the court could do to get her closer to a unanimous decision.

The jury said it voted seven times Tuesday and Wednesday without being able to reach consensus on any of the three charges.

The jury foreman said that only two jurors voted in favor of conviction on the first charge, four in favor of conviction in the second charge and five in favor of conviction on the third charge.

The jury was forced to start deliberations from scratch on Monday when two had to be released because they contracted COVID-19. They deliberated for two days, but still could not reach a verdict.

The result was a major setback for prosecutors and for the three women, who said they were seeking long-overdue justice.

The trial came amid a spate of cases on both coasts with #MeToo connotations, including Harvey Weinstein’s trial in Los Angeles, right next to Masterson’s. In New York, Kevin Spacey won a sexual misconduct lawsuit brought by actor Anthony Rapp in New York, and a jury ordered director and screenwriter Paul Haggis to pay $10 million in a New York civil suit.

But in the Masterson trial, like the Haggis trial, the implications of #MeToo were largely eclipsed by the specter of Scientology, although the judge insisted that the church does not become the de facto defendant.

The women, all identified as Jane Does, and all former members of the church, said they were intimidated, harassed and stalked after Masterson was charged. They have repeated these allegations in a pending court case against the Church.

Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, said the church was mentioned 700 times during the trial, arguing that it was an excuse for prosecutors’ failure to build a credible case against Masterson, a prominent Scientologist.

But assistant prosecutor Reinhold Mueller said the church was trying to silence the women and that’s why it took the case two decades to get to court.

Masterson did not testify. His attorney did not provide defense statements, instead focusing on inconsistencies in the accounts of the three accusers, who he said had changed their stories over time and had spoken to each other before going to the police.

“The key to this case isn’t when they reported it,” Cohen said during closing arguments. “It’s what they said when they reported it. What they said after they reported it. And what they said in court.”

Mueller argued that Masterson was a man “for whom ‘no’ never meant ‘no,'” as illustrated by the vivid and emotional testimonies of the three accusers.

Two women said they were served drinks by Masterson and became light-headed or passed out before being brutally raped. One said she thought she was going to die when Masterson held a pillow over her face.

An ex-girlfriend said she woke up to find Masterson had sex with her without her consent. The defense said her claims were undermined because she later had sex with him after they broke up.

Cohen told jurors they could acquit Masterson if they felt he “actually and reasonably believed” the women consented to the sex. Mueller countered that no one would believe the actions described were consensual and reminded jurors that a woman had repeatedly told him “no,” pulled his hair, and tried to get out from under him.

Mueller told the jury not to be swayed by defense speculation, saying inconsistencies in the victims’ testimonies were marks of authenticity in contrast to accounts written in the script.

The charges come at a time when Masterson was at the height of his fame, starring as Steven Hyde on Fox’s That ’70s Show from 1998 to 2006. The show made stars like Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace and is getting an upcoming Netflix reboot with That ’90s Show.

Masterson had reunited with Kutcher in Netflix comedy The Ranch, but was written off the show when an LAPD investigation was uncovered in December 2017.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc7.com/danny-masterson-rape-trial-deadlocked-jury/12511880/ Danny Masterson Trial: Mistrial Explained In ‘That ’70s Show’ Actor Rape Trial

Laura Coffey

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