'That '70s Show' actor Danny Masterson sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for 2 rapes – USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES − A judge sentenced “That ’70s Show” star Danny Masterson to 30 years to life in prison Thursday for the rapes of two women two decades ago.
LA Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo sentenced the 47-year-old actor after rejecting a defense motion for a new trial and hearing statements from the women about the trauma they experienced and the suffering caused by the disturbing memories in the years since. The sentence was the maximum allowed by law. It means Masterson will be eligible for parole after serving 25 1/2 years, but can be held in prison for life.
Masterson waived his right to speak before he was sentenced and had no visible reaction after the judge’s decision, nor did the many family members sitting beside him. His wife, actor Bijou Phillips, was tearful earlier in the hearing.
“Mr. Masterson, I know that you’re sitting here steadfast in your claims of innocence and thus no doubt feeling victimized by a justice system that has failed you,” Olmedo told Masterson before handing down the sentence. “But Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here. Your actions 20 years ago took away another person’s voice and choice. One way or another you will have to come to terms with your prior actions and their consequences.”
The defense sought to have sentences for the two convictions run simultaneously and asked for a sentence of 15 years to life. The prosecution asked for the full 30 years to life sentence Masterson was eligible for. “It’s his life that will be impacted by what you decide today,” Masterson’s lawyer Shawn Holley told the judge before the sentencing. “He has lived an exemplary life. He has been an extraordinary father, husband, brother, son, co-worker and community servant.”
Masterson, who has been in custody since May, sat in court wearing a suit. The actor watched the women without visible reaction as they spoke.
A jury of seven women and five men found Masterson guilty of two counts of rape on May 31 after seven days of deliberations. Both attacks took place in Masterson’s Hollywood-area home in 2003, when he was at the height of his fame on the Fox sitcom “That ’70s Show.”
The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on a third count, an allegation that Masterson also raped a longtime girlfriend.
“When you raped me, you stole from me. That’s what rape is, a theft of the spirit,” said one woman who Masterson was convicted of raping in 2003. “You are pathetic, disturbed and completely violent. The world is better off with you in prison.”
In a statement to USA TODAY Thursday, Masterson’s lawyer Shawn Holley said the actor’s legal team is “very disappointed in the sentence handed down today by Judge Olmedo.”
With the help of appellate lawyers, who have “identified a number of significant evidentiary and constitutional issues,” Holley said there are plans to appeal and overturn Masterson’s previous convictions.
“The errors which occurred in this case are substantial and unfortunately led to verdicts which are not supported by the evidence,” Holley said. “Though we have great respect for the jury in this case and for our system of justice overall, sometimes they get it wrong.”
The verdict came in a second trial after a jury failed to reach verdicts on three counts of forcible rape in December 2022, and a mistrial was declared.
Prosecutors alleged that Masterson used his prominence in the Church of Scientology − where all three women were also members at the time − to avoid consequences for decades after the attacks.
The women blamed the church for their hesitancy in going to police about Masterson. They testified that when they reported him to Scientology officials, they were told they were not raped, were put through ethics programs themselves, and were 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.”
Testimony at a preliminary hearing last year to determine whether Masterson should go to trial included frequent use of Scientology jargon that lawyers had to ask the witnesses to explain. And the trial’s witness list is full of members and former members of the church, which has a strong presence in Los Angeles and has counted many famous figures among its members. 
“This is not going to become a trial on Scientology,” Olmedo asserted at a pre-trial hearing. But she said she would allow its discussion as a reason why the women delayed reporting to authorities.
Before the first accuser took the stand on Oct. 19, 2022, the judge warned her not to stray too far into discussions of Scientology − but it still came up.
The woman testified some of her mutual friends filed so-called “knowledge reports” signaling their unhappiness with her after she told them about the initial incident with Masterson, and she was summoned by an ethics officer who forced her to make peace with him and take responsibility.
Asked if she still feared retaliation from anyone for coming forward about Masterson, she replied “about half this courtroom.”
The church said in a statement after the verdict 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.
Danny Masterson found guiltyof 2 counts of rape in retrial, faces up to 30 years in prison
Author L. Ron Hubbard wrote “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” in 1950, which became a foundational text for the Church of Scientology. The religion focuses on bettering one’s spirit “not the mind or body − and believes that Man is far more than a product of his environment, or his genes,” according to its official website. Through processes called “auditing” and “training,” a Scientologist can gain better spiritual awareness outside of their body, the religion states.
The religion has garnered many celebrity figures such as Tom Cruise, Leah Remini, Masterson, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. Remini and Masterson’s former “That ’70s Show” co-star Laura Prepon are among the few famous people who have left the religion.
“King of Queens” alum Remini was a member of the church for 35 years before leaving in 2013. Two years later, she said in an interview that Cruise was one of the factors that led her to leave − because the actor is so tethered to the church, they view an attack on him as an attack on all of them.
He is very aware of the abuses that go on in Scientology,” Remini told The Daily Beast in 2018. “He’s been part of it.”
Masterson did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses. The defense argued that the acts were consensual, and attempted to discredit the women’s stories by highlighting changes and inconsistencies over time, which they said showed signs of coordination between them.
The women whose testimony led to Masterson’s conviction said that in 2003, he gave them drinks and that they became woozy or passed out before he violently raped them.
Olmedo allowed prosecutors and accusers to say directly in the second trial that Masterson drugged the women, while only allowing the women to describe their condition in the first.
Masterson was not charged with any counts of drugging, and there was no toxicology evidence to back up the assertion.
Olmedo had ordered jurors to take Thanksgiving week off and keep deliberating after they said on Nov. 18 that they could not reach a consensus. The jury began deliberations anew the following week after two alternates replaced jurors who had COVID-19.
“I find the jurors hopelessly deadlocked,” Olmedo declared after inquiring whether there was anything the court could do to move them closer to reaching a unanimous decision.
Jurors said they had voted seven times over two days without being able to reach a consensus on any of the three counts.
Two of the alleged victims issued a statement saying they were disappointed “Masterson has evaded criminal accountability for his deplorable acts. However, we are collectively resolved to continue our fight for justice.”
Masterson starred with 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 an LAPD investigation was revealed the following year.
Though that investigation began before a wave of women shook Hollywood 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.
‘I told him no’:Ex-girlfriend of Danny Masterson recounts ‘painful’ rape in testimony
Contributing: Maria Puente, Hannah Yasharoff, Naledi Ushe, Edward Segarra, USA TODAY; Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press

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