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Judge Orders ’That ‘70s Show’ Actor to Face Three Rape Accusations in Court


Actor Danny Masterson is arraigned on three rape charges in separate incidents in 2001 and 2003 at Los Angeles Superior Court on September 18, 2020.

A California judge on Friday ruled that Danny Masterson, the actor made famous by the TV series That ’70s Show, will face trial on three counts of rape involving accusations from three women in the years 2001 and 2003.

After a four-day preliminary hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo said the accusers provided enough evidence to force Masterson to face a jury. The burden of proof at a preliminary hearing is only that of probable cause: in other words, that it is probable that a crime was committed and that it is probable that the defendant is the person who committed it. The burden of proof at a trial is much higher. There, the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Associated Press reported that “dozen” of other “investigations by police and the Los Angeles district attorney” mostly “ended without charges” being filed against Masterson.

Masterson has denied the accusations. Thomas Mesereau, one of Masterson’s attorneys and a lawyer known for representing Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson, acknowledged that sex took place but said it was consensual, the AP reported.

The first of the three accusers to testify at the hearing said Masterson “drugged and raped” her eighteen years ago, People magazine reported.

Another AP report said the first accuser testified that she became ill about half an hour after drinking a vodka Masterson had provided. She said a friend tried to help her to her feet but that she couldn’t see or stand. Masterson, she testified, carried her upstairs and put her into a shower. She blacked out but awoke to find Masterson putting soap on her bare breasts, the AP said. The witness said she was in and out of consciousness but that Masterson carried her to a bed and raped her. She said at one point he pulled a gun from a dresser and threatened her.

Danny Masterson arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere of Marvel Studios ‘Ant-Man’ at Dolby Theatre on June 29, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

The second accuser testified that Masterson raped her in their shared home after a five-year relationship.

“I tried pushing him off me and saying no I don’t want to have sex with you,” the woman testified, per another People magazine report. “He wouldn’t stop. So I did something that I knew would make him angry and likely to get off me. I pulled his hair. He has these rules, ‘no touch hair rule,’ ‘no touch face rule.’ He had this thing about his hair, so I knew if I pulled it really, really hard, he would get off me. But what he did was he hit me.”

12/7/98 Las Vegas, NV. The cast of “That 70’s Show at The 1998 Billboard Music Awards, held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. From l-r: Topher Grace, Wilmer Valderrama, Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson

Yet another Associated Press report quoted the woman as saying Masterson hit her across the face, spit on her, and called her “white trash.”

During the preliminary hearing, Mesereau attacked what he considered to be omissions and inconsistencies in the accusers’ stories over the years. Mesereau also suggested that the prosecution was targeting Masterson because of his adherence to Scientology. The accusers are all former Scientologists, the AP noted; Judge Olmedo found that “church teachings kept them from reporting their accusations to police for years,” the wire service said.

Another of Masterson’s defense attorneys, Sharon Appelbaum, said the three accusers “had colluded to form a ‘sisterhood’ that ‘seems to want to take down Mr. Masterson and take down Scientology,'” the AP said.

Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson Host Fans in Nashville at Tequila Cowboy for a Launch Event For Netflix “The Ranch: Part 3” on June 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Prosecutors rebuffed the suggestion.

Masterson’s accusers are also suing the Church of Scientology over the way it allegedly handled their complaints about Masterson. The organization has denied any wrongdoing.

Masterson, who is free on bail, will be back in court June 7. If convicted, he could face a sentence of 45 years to life.

Three days ago, Masterson snapped a photo and posted it on Instagram outside of the “Court House.”

“Had the most beautiful Uber driver drop me off at school today. #uberwife #bijouphillips,” he said.


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[image via Lucy Nicholson/pool/Getty Images]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.