LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge ruled Wednesday in the rape trial of ‘That ’70s Show’ actor Danny Masterson A jury strongly bent on acquitting him stalled after a month-long trial in which the Church of Scientology played a supporting role.
Prosecutors said Masterson raped three women, including an ex-girlfriend, at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003, dissuading the church from going public for years. Masterson, 46, has pleaded not guilty and his attorney said the whole act was consensual.
“We found the jury to be hopelessly stuck,” declared Judge Charlaine Olmedo after the jury president said there was nothing the court could do to get closer to a unanimous decision. She has set a March date for a retrial in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Olmedo ordered the jury to rest for Thanksgiving week to continue deliberations after he said the jury had been unable to reach consensus on Nov. 18. A jury of six women and six men. started a new hearing on Monday After being replaced by two jurors diagnosed with COVID-19 during a break.
The jurors, who voted seven times on Tuesday and Wednesday, were unable to reach agreement on any of the three points. voted for conviction on count of 1, and 5 voted for conviction on count 3.
The result was a serious setback for prosecutors, with the three women providing emotional and graphic testimony over several days, saying they were seeking long overdue justice.
The two alleged victims in the case said, “Masterson has avoided criminal responsibility for his deplorable act. However, we are determined to continue the fight for justice.” .”
All three women were members of the church at the time, and Masterson is still a member today.
Two women and one husband are suing Masterson of the Church of Scientology, including its leader David Miscavige, for stalking, harassing and threatening Masterson after attempting to expose him.
Masterson walked out of court with his wife, actor and model Bijou Phillips, but did not speak to reporters. He was accompanied to court for days by his sister-in-law, actor Mackenzie Phillips, singer-actress Chinna Phillips, and her husband, actor William Baldwin, as well as members of his showbiz family. Did.
The proceedings come amidst a string of #MeToo incidents on both coasts. Harvey Weinstein Los Angeles Trial Just down the Masterson hallway. in New York, Kevin Spacey won over sexual misconduct In a lawsuit filed by actor Anthony Rapp in New York, the jury ordered director and screenwriter Paul Haggis pay $10 million Then there is the civil lawsuit.
But in the Masterson trial, as in the Haggis trial, the influence of #MeToo was overshadowed by the specter of Scientology, even though the judge argued that the church would not be the de facto defendant. It was dropped.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Muller said it took 20 years to reach a trial because the church tried to silence the women.
Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, said the church was mentioned 700 times during the trial, which he said was an excuse for not filing credible lawsuits against the prominent Scientologist Masterson. claimed.
Church spokesperson Karin Pow said Mueller misrepresented the church’s doctrines and beliefs and Jane Dowes made false claims about Scientology.
“Any testimony that the church harassed or stalked Jane Douss is untrue,” Pow said.
Cohen said he would file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on how the jury voted. He said the jury provided useful additional insight after the wrongful judgment, but did not discuss what they told him.
“As a lawyer, I always wonder if what I do every day in court is having an effect on jurors,” Cohen said. “Obviously we broke in.”
In a statement, the district attorney’s office said it was disappointed with the outcome and would consider next steps.
A juror was taken out of court without speaking to a reporter.
Masterson did not testify. Cohen did not provide testimony for the defense, instead focusing on the inconsistencies in the accounts of the three accusers, who changed their stories over time and talked to each other before going to the police. He said he did.
“The key to this case is not when they reported it,” Cohen said in closing arguments. “That’s what they said when they reported it. What they said after they reported it. And what they said at trial.”
Mueller claimed that Masterson was “a man whose ‘no’ never meant ‘no'”.
The two women were offered drinks by Masterson, and were left limp and passed out before being violently raped. rice field.
An ex-girlfriend said she woke up to find Masterson having sex with her without her consent. He said that
Cohen told the jury that Masterson could be acquitted if it determined that Masterson “actually reasonably believed” that the woman consented to sex. Arguing that no one would believe that the acts committed were consensual, he told jurors that a woman repeatedly told him “no” and tried to get out from under him by pulling her hair. reminded me.
Mueller told jurors not to be misled by the defense’s speculation, saying that the inconsistencies in the victim’s testimony were a sign of believability, as opposed to the scripted accounts.
The indictment dates from 1998 to 2006, when Masterson was at the height of his fame, starring as Stephen Hyde on Fox’s That ’70s Show. The show made stars Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Topher Grace, and has his Netflix reboot set for “That ’90s Show.”
Masterson had reunited with Kutcher on the Netflix comedy The Lunch, but was pulled from the show in December 2017 when an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department came to light.