LOS ANGELES (CNS) -“That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson was sentenced today to the maximum of 30 years to life in state prison for raping two women at his Hollywood Hills home about two decades ago.
Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo told the 47-year-old actor shortly before imposing the sentence that she knew that he is “sitting here steadfastly on your claims of innocence.”
“Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here,” the judge said, telling him that his actions had taken away another person’s voice and choice and that the victims each reported the rapes to someone shortly afterward.
The judge called Masterson’s actions “criminal,” and subsequently called him back into court to order him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life upon his release from state prison.
One of Masterson’s attorneys, Shawn Holley, had argued for the 15-year-to-life terms on each of the counts to be served at the same time, saying that it was a “fair and just sentence” for Masterson, who is married to actress Bijou Phillips, is the father of a 9-year-old daughter and has done “many selfless acts over the past 20 years.” She said she would not minimize the conduct for which Masterson had been convicted while noting that she disagreed with the jury’s verdict.
Another of Masterson’s lawyers, Philip Kent Cohen, told the judge that a 15-year-to-life sentence wouldn’t necessarily mean that his client would ever be released from prison, saying it would be up to a parole board to make that determination.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller countered that a 15-year-to-life sentence was “not fair and just.”
He said a 30-year-to-life sentence would be the “fair and just” sentence, saying that “this defendant needs to be held accountable.”
Masterson was convicted on May 31 of two counts of rape by force or fear. He was taken into custody after the verdict was read and has remained behind bars since then.
The jury deadlocked on another rape charge involving a third alleged victim, who was a former longtime girlfriend of Masterson. Prosecutors announced in July that they would not retry the actor on that charge, and it was dismissed on July 11.
The judge heard emotional victim impact statements from all three women, who described long-standing effects of the trauma they have said they experienced.
“You relish in hurting women,” one of the women, identified in court as “Jane Doe 2,” said in directly addressing Masterson. “You lived your life behind a mask as two people. But the real one sits here …”
She said the world is “safer” with Masterson behind bars and believes that it never dawned on him that he would be “held accountable.”
“I forgive you,” she told the actor, saying that his “sickness” is no longer her burden.
The other victim, identified as “Jane Doe 1,” said she wished that she had “reported him sooner” to Los Angeles police.
“I knew he belonged behind bars,” she told the judge.
In a statement read by Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson, Masterson’s ex-girlfriend wrote that she entered the relationship as an “extremely naive” and “trusting” 18-year-old.
The judge turned down the prosecution’s request to allow three other women, including two who had testified about alleged uncharged crimes, to speak at Masterson’s sentencing.
Last month, Olmedo rejected a defense bid last month to delay the sentencing, and on Thursday she rejected a bid to modify the jury’s verdict or to grant a new trial.
The jury was the second to hear the case against Masterson, who was charged in 2020 with three counts of rape by force or fear involving the three women on separate occasions.
During the first trial last year, jurors leaned in favor of acquittal on all three counts –voting 10-2 on one count, 8-4 on another and 7-5 on the third — but they were unable to reach a unanimous decision, leading to a mistrial being declared on Nov. 30.
Jurors in Masterson’s retrial convicted the actor of the two rapes and deadlocked on the charge involving his ex-girlfriend.
At the hearing last month, the judge rejected a defense motion requesting that the dismissal of the third rape charge be with prejudice, which would have barred prosecutors from being able to potentially re-file that charge in the future. But Olmedo said the defense can raise the issue again if the charge is re-filed.
Outside court after the sentencing, Mueller said the prosecution did not intend to re-file the charge that had been dismissed.
He said he was “extremely proud” of the women for coming forward and is “happy that they got their justice.”
In a statement she read outside court after the sentencing, Holley said a team of appellate lawyers has been reviewing the trial’s transcripts and has identified “a number of significant evidentiary and constitutional issues which they will address in briefs to both state and federal appellate courts.”
“Mr. Masterson did not commit the crimes for which he has been convicted and we and the appellate lawyers — the best and the brightest in the country — are confident that these convictions will be overturned,” Holley said.
In his closing argument of the retrial, Mueller told the jury, “This defendant drugged and raped each one of these victims. … It is time to hold Mr. Masterson accountable for what he has done.”
Mueller said the three women were — like Masterson — members of the Church of Scientology, and told jurors that the church retaliated against them.
“What happened after they were drugged — they were raped by this man over here,” the prosecutor said, pointing across the courtroom at Masterson. “… You have an opportunity to show there is justice. It does exist.”
Cohen urged jurors during his closing argument to acquit his client, questioning the credibility of the women.
The defense attorney also questioned why the panel had heard “so much about Scientology,” asking jurors if there could be problems with the government’s case against Masterson.
Masterson’s lawyer said he was not alleging that there was some “grand conspiracy” against his client, but told jurors the alleged victims had spoken with each other despite an LAPD detective’s admonition and that their accounts have been tweaked throughout the years.
He said there was no forensic evidence to support the prosecution’s contention that the alleged victims’ drinks had been drugged by Masterson.
Outside the jury’s presence during the trial, the judge rejected Cohen’s requests for either a mistrial, another chance to argue before the jury, or a special jury instruction as a result of the prosecution’s repeated references to the women allegedly being drugged.
The Church of Scientology issued a statement criticizing the prosecution’s characterizations of the church’s actions.
“The church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone, Scientologists or not, to law enforcement,” according to the statement. “Quite the opposite, church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land. All allegations to the contrary are totally false.”
A civil suit filed in August 2019 against Masterson and the Church of Scientology by the three women involved in the criminal case and one woman who was not a member of the church alleges they were stalked and harassed after reporting sexual assault allegations against the actor to Los Angeles police.
Regarding the lawsuit, the Church of Scientology issued a statement saying, “The church denies the allegations of harassment as obvious, cynical and self-serving fictions, and the church knows it will be vindicated.”
In December 2017, Netflix announced that Masterson had been fired from the Emmy-winning scripted comedy “The Ranch” amid sexual assault allegations.
The actor said then he was “very disappointed,” and added that “it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.” He also “denied the outrageous allegations” and said he looked forward to “clearing my name once and for all.”
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