That ’70s Show star Danny Masterson has been sentenced to life in prison for the rapes of two women two decades ago.
He will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years.
The sentence was handed down on Thursday (7 September) by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F Olmedo, after she had rejected a defence motion for a new trial.
“Mr Masterson, you are not the victim here. Your actions 20 years ago took away another person’s choice and voice. Your actions 20 years ago today were criminal, and that’s why you are here,” Judge Olmedo said.
The sitcom actor, 47, was found guilty of two counts of forcible rape by a jury of seven women and five men on 31 May, following seven days of deliberation.
Masterson had initially been accused of drugging and raping three women at his home between 2001 and 2003. He was convicted of raping two of the women in 2003, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the third allegation from November 2001, brought forward by a former girlfriend.
His first trial ended in a mistrial in December, with jurors hopelessly deadlocked on all three counts.
The Church of Scientology, of which Masterson is a member and all three women are former members, has played an even larger role in the second trial than it did in the first.
During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Masterson used his prominence in the church to avoid consequences for decades after the attacks.
The women had blamed the church for dissuading them from reporting Masterson to police. They testified that when they reported him to Scientology officials, they were told they were not raped and were sent through ethics programs and 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.”
After the verdict, the church said 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.
Masterson, who maintains his innocence, did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses. The defence argued that the acts were consensual, and attempted to discredit the women by arguing that their stories had been “tweaked” in their favour.
Masterson’s attorney Philip Cohen fought back against prosecutor Ariel Anson’s drugging claims in his closing arguments, claiming there was “no tangible evidence” to support drugging allegations.
“Miss Anson presented a case as if she was arguing a drugging case,” Cohen said. “Maybe it’s because there is no evidence of force or violence.”
Masterson was not charged with any counts of drugging, and there was no toxicology evidence to back up the assertion.
Following his sentencing, one of the women addressed Masterson and the courtroom, saying: “I don’t have to carry around your shame around with me. Now, you have to carry it. You have to sit in a cell and carry it.
“Your emptiness and your cowardice will be your true legacy. You are pathetic, disturbed and extremely violent. The world is safer with you behind bars.”
Masterson is best known for his starring role alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace in That ’70s Show from 1998 until 2006.
He had reunited with Kutcher on the 2016 Netflix comedy The Ranch, but was written off the show when a Los Angeles Police Department investigation was revealed the following year.
While that investigation began before Hollywood was shaken with stories about Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, the conviction and sentencing of Masterson still represents a major #MeToo era success for Los Angeles prosecutors, along with the conviction of Weinstein himself last year in 2022.
An old 2004 chat show clip featuring Masterson, which takes on chilling new light in the wake of his conviction, resurfaced on social media following his sentencing.
Additional reporting by Associated Press.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies