Actor Danny Masterson charged in three rape cases
Actor Danny Masterson has been charged with three counts of rape involving incidents between 2001 and 2003, Los Angeles prosecutors said Wednesday.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said in a statement that Masterson is accused of raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 and a 23-year-old woman he invited to a Hollywood party between October and December 2003.
Masterson surrendered to Los Angeles police and was booked Wednesday afternoon at the downtown jail. He was released after posting $3.3-million bail.
The “That ‘70s Show” actor is scheduled to be arraigned in September. He could not immediately be reached for comment. The alleged crimes occurred at his Hollywood Hills home, officials said.
When sexual assault allegations against the actor were first raised in 2017, he and his representative denied them and suggested they were motivated by the producer of an anti-Scientology television series. Masterson has identified himself as a practicing Scientologist.
In a statement Wednesday, his attorney said Masterson is innocent.
“We’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify,” Tom Mesereau said. “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.”
Mesereau most famously successfully defended singer Michael Jackson against child molestation charges.
Masterson has been the subject of the growing number of sexual assault allegations from women he knew. He becomes the second high-profile Hollywood figure charged by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, following Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein on rape charges in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which gave voice to sexual assault survivors and has spurred a cultural awakening.
Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison after bring convicted of rape and committing a criminal sexual act in New York this year.
In the Masterson case, Lacey has come under fire previously for not acting on the allegations. Among those voicing criticism was actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist and well-known critic of the church, who publicly questioned why the district attorney had not charged the actor.
The LAPD’s elite sex crimes unit inside its Robbery-Homicide Division began investigating Masterson in late 2016. In March 2017, the department acknowledged it was looking into allegations of three accusers. A month later, evidence was presented to the district attorney’s office, but prosecutors repeatedly asked for additional investigations.
Prosecutors reviewed allegations from five women. The district attorney’s office declined to file sexual assault charges in two cases, one for insufficient evidence and the other based on the statute of limitations for the crime alleged.
All three accusers in the criminal case have also joined in a civil lawsuit that was filed against Masterson in 2019 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to the women’s attorney, Brian Kent. In that lawsuit, a total of four women accused Masterson of sexually assaulting them and said that after coming forward, the actor, along with affiliates of the Church of Scientology, sought to silence and intimidate them. The lawsuit contends that Masterson has worked as a field staff member for Scientology-related organizations.
One of the plaintiffs, Chrissie Bixler, alleged that while dating Masterson, he assaulted her “on more than one occasion” in late 2001 or early 2002, and that one of the alleged assaults occurred while she was unconscious.
After Bixler reported the assault to the LAPD in 2016, she claims in the lawsuit that she was stalked and threatened, purportedly by people affiliated with Scientology-related organizations.
Another woman who joined the lawsuit but opted to sue Masterson anonymously accused him of sexually assaulting her at his home on April 24 or 25 of 2003, a date that corresponds to an incident that is the basis for one of the charges in the criminal case.
That woman alleged she became “very sick and disoriented” after drinking a beverage at Masterson’s home, according to the lawsuit. She alleged that after falling ill, Masterson brought her into a bathroom, undressed her and sexually assaulted her in the shower, according to the lawsuit. The woman claimed that she later awoke to him raping her. The lawsuit stated that an unidentified witness was present for some of the events leading to the alleged assault.
Masterson’s lawyers have vigorously denied the lawsuit’s allegations, calling them “false and defamatory.” The attorneys have noted that the claims do not mention that the plaintiffs “all had long-standing relationships with Mr. Masterson.” The lawyers have also said that the “original claims” stemmed from “prior consensual relationships.”
“This lawsuit is not about justice, as Mr. Masterson’s exes disingenuously claim,” his lawyer Andrew Brettler wrote in a February court filing. “It is a shameful money grab; plain and simple.”
William Forman, an attorney for the Church of Scientology International, previously dismissed the claims made in the litigation.
“This baseless lawsuit will go nowhere, because the claims are ludicrous and a sham,” Forman told The Times in 2019. “It’s a dishonest and hallucinatory publicity stunt.”
Masterson’s prosecution is being led by Deputy Dist. Atty. Reinhold Mueller, who is also handling sex abuse charges against former USC gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall. Masterson faces a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison if convicted of all charges.
The actor was fired from the Netflix series “The Ranch” in 2017 after Los Angeles police acknowledged the investigation.
“From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one,” he said then. “In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused. I understand and look forward to clearing my name once and for all.”
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