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In Danny Masterson rape case, accuser says Scientologists tried to protect actor

Actor Danny Masterson arrives at a benefit event in Los Angeles in 2014.
Actor Danny Masterson arrives at a benefit event in Los Angeles in 2014. The first of three women accusing the “That ‘70s Show” actor of sexual assault took the stand in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
(Annie I. Bang / Invision / Associated Press)

About two weeks had passed since actor Danny Masterson allegedly raped her, when the woman recalls entering an office at the Church of Scientology’s Hollywood celebrity center.

She was racked with panic, she testified in a Los Angeles court Tuesday, having told only a few people about the night she says Masterson assaulted her at his Hollywood home in 2003. Fellow Scientologists had rebuffed her attempts to talk, directing her instead to speak with high-ranking church officials, the woman said.

Her attempt to report the attack to an authority figure in the church that she’d been born into was met with a stern warning, she testified.

“If you’re going to say the word ‘rape’ don’t say it now,” she recalled the man admonishing her. “We don’t use it.”

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The woman recounted the alleged rape and what she described as efforts by Scientology officials to silence her during nearly six hours of sometimes tearful testimony Tuesday in a hearing to determine whether the case against Masterson will proceed to trial. She is one of three women Masterson is charged with raping between 2001 and 2003. The other two accusers are expected to testify later this week.

A spokeswoman for Scientology disputed the woman’s claims about the church. Masterson — who gained fame on the sitcom “That 70s Show” and has been a practicing Scientologist for at least 20 years — has denied all wrongdoing. His defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau, tried to undermine the woman’s account during his cross-examination Tuesday by pointing out what he said were inconsistencies in her testimony.

The woman was identified in court Tuesday by her first name and the initial of her last name. The Times generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual assault unless they choose to fully identify themselves.

Masterson’s accusers are also part of a civil lawsuit filed against him in 2019. In that lawsuit, four women have accused Masterson of sexually assaulting them and alleged that, after they came forward, the actor and church officials teamed up to intimidate them into silence.

The woman testified that she became ill and struggled to breathe or stand after Masterson served her a drink during a small party at his Hollywood home in April 2003.

Masterson, she alleged, carried her from a poolside area to an upstairs bathroom, where he stuck his fingers down the woman’s throat to make her vomit. After forcing her to shower, the woman said Masterson guided her to a bedroom, held her down and violently raped her as she fell in and out of consciousness.

The woman also said Masterson pulled out a pistol and threatened her at one point during the assault.

“When I first came to, he was saying … ‘What you’re not gonna do is … you’re not gonna [expletive] tell anybody,’” the woman testified.

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The woman went on to detail what she said happened when she told Scientology officials about the rape allegation, raising questions about how the Church of Scientology handles allegations of wrongdoing against its members.

The woman said that after the first church official she confided in admonished her against using the word “rape,” he told her that the church’s rules about “suppressive acts” barred her from contacting police.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Reinhold Mueller presented documents during the hearing that showed the woman wrote a letter in 2004 to Scientology’s international justice chief seeking permission to report Masterson to police. In a written response, the chief referred the woman to the “suppressive acts” rules, according to the documents.

The woman said she believed at the time that if she violated the church’s doctrine she would be excommunicated from the church and disavowed by her family and friends, many of whom were also Scientologists. But she decided to contact police anyway.

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Los Angeles police took a report, but the district attorney’s office declined to file charges against Masterson at the time. Capt. Jonathan Tippet, who leads the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, told The Times on Tuesday that the woman’s case became more viable when the other two accusers came forward in 2016. The accusations from multiple women led police to renew their investigation, which included serving several search warrants.

In written responses to questions submitted by The Times, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology dismissed the woman’s testimony about the church’s internal practices.

Karin Pouw denied the church’s policy on “suppressive acts” contained any language that would bar members from filing reports alleging rape, or any other crime, against an active member of the church.

“There is no truth to this outrageous allegation whatsoever,” Pouw said. “There is no prohibition from reporting crimes to law enforcement in any Scientology policy.”

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Pouw also denied that church members tried to discourage the woman from reporting the alleged rape to police, and said the woman was never labeled a “suppressive person” by the church.

“The Church is known for its assistance to law enforcement and appropriately reporting criminal behavior,” Pouw wrote. “The Church has zero-tolerance for abuse and responds swiftly and appropriately to reports of abuse of any kind. Any statement or implication to the contrary is false.”

On cross-examination, Mesereau, Masterson’s attorney, cited as inconsistencies in the woman’s account a 2004 Los Angeles police report and a draft version of the civil lawsuit against Masterson, both of which described the alleged rape but do not mention that the actor used a gun during the assault.

He also said the woman had previously given conflicting accounts as to whether she had consensual sex with Masterson in 2002.

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The hearing is scheduled to continue Wednesday.


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