On Thursday (7 September), Masterson was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for the rapes of two women two decades ago. It was then revealed that Kutcher and Kunis, who starred alongside Masterson in That ’70s Show, were among 50 people who wrote letters of support for the 47-year-old actor ahead of his sentencing.
In their letters of support, which were published by Los Angeles-based court reporter Meghann Cuniff on Friday (9 September), the couple vouched for Masterson’s “exceptional character” and pleaded for Judge Charlaine Olmedo’s leniency.
Kutcher called his co-star, whom he also starred alongside in Netflix sitcom The Ranch, a “role model” and “a person that is consistently there for you when you need him”.
Kutcher wrote in his letter: “While I’m aware that the judgement has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and the victims have a great desire for justice, I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing,
“I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society and having his daughter raised without a present father would be a tertiary injustice in and of itself. Thank you for taking the time to read this.”
Meanwhile, in her letter, Kunis called Masterson “an amazing friend, confidant, and, above all, an outstanding older brother figure to me”.
She wrote: “Danny Masterson’s warmth, humor, and positive outlook on life have been a driving force in shaping my character and the way I approach life’s challenges. I wholeheartedly vouch for Danny Masterson’s exceptional character and the tremendous positive influence he has had on me and the people around him.”
After their letters were made public, Kutcher and Kunis received huge criticism for their decision to write them – and the couple posted a video on Saturday (9 September) apologising “if” their letters “undermined the testimony of the victims or re-traumatised them in any way”.
Kutcher said in the clip, which was posted to his socia media accounts: “We are aware of the pain that has been caused by the character letters that we wrote on behalf of Danny Masterson.
Kunis added: “We support victims. We have done this historically through our work and will continue to do so in the future.”
Kutcher explained that Masterson’s family had contacted his former co-stars about writing the character letters to “represent the person that we knew for 25 years.”, with Kunis stating: “The letters were not written to question the legitimacy of the judicial system, or the validity of the jury’s ruling.”
Dude, Where’s My Car? actor Kutcher continued: “They were intended for the judge to read and not to undermine the testimony of the victims or re-traumatise them in any way. We would never want to do that, and we’re sorry if that has taken place.”
Kunis then said that their “hearts go out to every single person who’s ever been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse or rape”.
The couple are facing a backlash for the video, with many questioning the wording of their apology. Others are highlighting the irony that Kutcher decided to write the letter despite the fact it could “destroy all the good work” he’s done as part of the child trafficking charity he co-founded with his ex-wife Demi Moore.
“Why on earth would Ashton Kutcher write a character statement for Danny Masterson? Surely he would have known this would destroy his reputation and all the good work his done for his child trafficking charity. Maybe blackmail?
One person called the video “an explanation” as opposed to “an apology”, stating: “How on earth can we take Ashton and Mila seriously in their advocacy work with survivors of sexual abuse if they are actively writing letters to a judge to advocate for a lesser sentence for their rapist friend.”
The video was branded “incredibly insulting and hurtful” by journalist Yashar Ali, with others analysing their “disgusting” and “fake” statement to merely be “damage control”.
Kutcher’s comment that the letters “were intended for the judge to read” is being construed by many as suggesting that they believed their support of Masterson would be kept private.
Elsewhere, shortly after the video was posted, Yellowjackets actor Christina Ricci shared an Instagram Story urging the couple to “accept” that their friend is a “predator” and “abuser”.
Find more reactions to their video below.
The Independent has contacted Kutcher and Kunis for further comment.
Masterson had initially been accused of drugging and raping three women at his home between 2001 and 2003.
Last week, he was convicted of raping two of the women in 2003, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the third allegation, which was brought forward by a former girlfriend.
Rape Crisis offers support for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. You can call them on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, and 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland, or visit their website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk.
If you are in the US, you can call Rainn on 800-656-HOPE (4673)