Actor Danny Masterson is calling a lawsuit submitted against him and the Church of Scientology, of which he is a member, “beyond ridiculous.”
The former “That ‘70s Show” star, who was the subject of an LAPD investigation after he was accused in 2017 of rape and sexual misconduct by an ex-girlfriend and other women, has been named a defendant in a lawsuit set to be filed by multiple plaintiffs in Los Angeles Superior Court. The plaintiffs claim that Masterson, the church and its leader, David Miscavige, orchestrated efforts to silence them.
“This case is brought ... for the Defendants’ conspiracy to cover up that Daniel Masterson sexually assaulted four young women. When those women came forward to report Masterson’s crime, the Defendants conspired to and systemically stalked, harassed, invaded their family’s privacy, and intentionally caused them emotional distress to silence and intimidate them,” according to the suit, which was submitted Wednesday to the court and obtained by The Times on Thursday.
One of the plaintiffs, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, dated Masterson for six years in the early 2000s and claimed in the lawsuit that she was forced to join the church under his orders. She was one of three women who accused the actor of sexual assault in the 2000s that prompted an LAPD investigation in 2017. Her husband, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, is also a plaintiff, as well as Marie Bobette Riales, who also previously dated the actor, and two other women who are identified as Jane Does.
They are demanding a jury trial and seeking unspecified damages.
The plaintiffs claim in the lawsuit that the defendants “forbid members from contacting police to report a crime committed by any member” of the church and that reporting such instances to law enforcement is considered a “high crime” that would subject them to punishment. One such measure to prevent reporting, according to the complaint, is requiring phones within certain church facilities “to be incapable of dialing 911.”
“Defendants do not treat victims of sexual abuse as victims at all. Instead, one who suffers sexual abuse (whether an adult or a child) is assumed to have done something to incite or invite such abuse,” the complaint said. “Defendants claim sexual abuse victims ‘pull in’ the abuse they have suffered.”
Masterson, speaking through his attorney, Andrew Brettler, said he would not fight his ex-girlfriend in the media, as she’s been “baiting” him to do for more than two years.
“I will beat her in court — and look forward to it because the public will finally be able learn the truth and see how I’ve been railroaded by this woman,” the actor said in a statement to The Times. “And once her lawsuit is thrown out, I intend to sue her and the others who jumped on the bandwagon for the damage they caused me and my family.”
William Forman, an attorney for the Church of Scientology International, also dismissed the claims made in the lawsuit and blamed the renewed attention on ex-Scientologist Leah Remini.
Remini was also blamed by the organization when the women’s allegations against Masterson first surfaced, with the church claiming that the accusations were false and that it believed them to be publicity-related to support Remini’s Emmy-winning documentary TV series “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” which premiered in December 2016.
“This baseless lawsuit will go nowhere, because the claims are ludicrous and a sham,” Forman told The Times on Thursday. “It’s a dishonest and hallucinatory publicity stunt. Leah Remini is taking advantage of these people as pawns in her moneymaking scam.”
A two-hour special focusing on Scientology’s purported policies against reporting instances of sexual assault and physical violence is set to run on Aug. 26 as part of Remini’s A&E series. The special includes interviews with some of the women in the lawsuit.
Representatives for Remini did not respond to The Times’ request for comment.
Masterson is among those caught up in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements that began with sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017. Masterson has insisted that all sexual encounters with his accusers were consensual and he has vehemently denied the “outrageous allegations” against him, reiterating that he had never been charged with a crime, “let alone convicted of one.”
The actor was dropped by his talent agency at the time, and Netflix parted ways with “The Ranch” star in December 2017 in light of the accusations. Production on the show resumed without him, and his character was killed off of the multi-camera comedy, which is slated to end with its fourth and final season in 2020.
The Church of Scientology has a reputation for allegedly intimidating those who speak out against its members and practices, according to a Times report. Previously reported intimidation efforts include the church’s alleged forged bomb threats framing the author of a book titled “The Scandal of Scientology,” as well as possible involvement in the death of a dog owned by a former Times reporter who was investigating the organization.
Times intern Christi Carras contributed to this report.