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Saying a ‘Different Outcome’ Is a ‘Possibility,’ Judge in Danny Masterson Rape Case Allows Prosecutors to Retry ‘That ’70s Show’ Star


Danny Masterson appears in a still image in scene from a Netflix series

Prosecutors intend to retry That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson on rape charges in California after a judge denied a defense motion on Tuesday to dismiss the charges jurors deadlocked on last November.

“Our office has decided to retry this case,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told a judge in downtown Los Angeles Superior Court, according to a report by Variety. Mueller helmed the first effort to prosecute alongside DDA Ariel Anson.

Last year, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo declared a mistrial in the high-profile case after two slightly different juries failed to reach an accord on three separate charges of rape involving three women who claimed Masterson raped them in 2001 and 2003 at the actor’s Hollywood Hills home.

After a 4-week-long trial, an initial deadlock, the judge telling jurors to reconsider the evidence anew after a week-and-a-half-long break, COVID snafus, concomitant replacements and roughly six days of deliberations, some partial and some full, jurors largely voted for acquittal but simply could not agree. The final tallies in the 46-year-old’s favor were 10-2, 8-4 and 7-5 on each of the three counts.

Masterson and his defense attorney Philip Kent Cohen sensed momentum with the partial victory and filed a motion to dismiss earlier this month, arguing that the jury’s final votes – and their earlier unsuccessful efforts to find unanimity – augured for a repeat should the charges be sustained and the prosecution brought again. During the Tuesday hearing, Cohen reiterated the argument that a different result in a new trial was unlikely.

All three of the alleged victims said they met Masterson through the Church of Scientology. The actor himself is a life-long Scientologist.

As Law&Crime previously reported, one of the alleged victims claims that she was drugged and then went in-and-out of consciousness, occasionally awaking to find the defendant bathing and then raping her. At one point, she claims, she woke to find herself threatened by a gun Masterson had pulled from a dresser.

Another victim claims that she was raped in the home she shared with the actor famous for playing “Hyde” during a multi-year relationship. When she resisted and tried to break free, she said, Masterson hit her across the face, spit on her, raped her, and called her “white trash.”

“The contradictory nature of their trial testimony is not going to credibly change,”  the defense wrote in their motion to dismiss.

Both Cohen and Mueller cast their respective positions on re-litigating the case as the one best suited for the interests of justice.

“Not giving these victims another chance with a jury who can sit there and consider all of the evidence – win, lose or draw – that would be an injustice,” Mueller said, according to a report by Wren Graves for the online pop culture website Consequence.

The defense often hewed to an argument that jurors did their job and no more could have been asked of them. The prosecutor reportedly found it “troubling” that jurors said they did not consider various witnesses and forms of evidence when making their decisions.

“It’s not that things were ignored that Mr. Mueller thinks were important or significant,” Cohen reportedly argued, according to Variety. “It’s that things were discussed and not believed to be important to decision-making for some of the jurors.”

In the end, the judge sided with the state.

Olmedo pointedly said the defense’s arguments about what a future jury might do were “speculative” and not supported by the facts.

Cabined by precedent and considering several factors divined from case law, the judge found that each weighed in favor of a new trial. She also noted that the prosecution only chose to call 16 of 36 potential witnesses – one of those witnesses who was never called includes the late Elvis Presley‘s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. She was a member of the Church of Scientology for over 30 years.

“It appears there are many other witnesses the people could choose to call or different arguments the people could choose to make,” Olmedo reportedly said, according to Variety. “A different outcome at a retrial is at least a possibility.”

The judge also opined on the interest the public has in seeing the allegations against Masterson sorted out for good.

“Mr. Masterson is charged with multiple counts of serious and violent felonies – forcible rapes,” Olmedo said, according to a report by The Wrap‘s Kelly Hartog and Josh Dickey. “If true and Masterson is convicted, society would not only be protected from a violent felon, and should be protected from a violent felon.”

Jury selection is presently slated to begin on March 29.

Law&Crime reached out to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for additional details and comment but a response was not immediately forthcoming as of the time of publication.

[image via Anna Webber/Getty Images for Netflix]

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