LOS ANGELES — Actor Danny Masterson pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he raped three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003.
The 45-year-old defendant — best known for appearing on “That ’70s Show” and “The Ranch” — was ordered on May 21 to stand trial by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo, who said that she “found all three witnesses to be credible and the evidence presented during a preliminary hearing sufficient to support the charges.”
At Monday’s arraignment, Masterson, who remains free on $3.3 million bail, surrendered his passport to court officials.
A pretrial hearing was set for Aug. 9, and Masterson’s attorneys are expected to file a motion seeking to appeal the decision to proceed to trial.
The criminal complaint, filed last June, alleges that Masterson raped a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001. He is also charged with raping a woman who was 28 at the time and a 23-year-old woman he had invited to his home some time between October and December 2003, according to Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller.
In holding the defendant to answer to the charges, the judge found the alleged victims’ delays in coming forward to be reasonable given the tenets of the Church of Scientology, of which the actor is a longtime adherent. She said that the women, who were also Scientology members, hesitated to contact police for fear of running afoul of church rules and ending up isolated from friends and family members.
Sharon Applebaum, one of Masterson’s lawyers, argued during the preliminary hearing that two of the women, identified in court as Jennifer B. and N. Trout, had consensual sex with the actor. She said the rape alleged by the third woman, a former Masterson flame identified as Christina B., never occurred.
“He did not force anyone to have sex with him,” Applebaum said.
The defense attorney also accused the three women of colluding against the actor, saying they were in constant contact with each other and eventually sued him in a case that is now in arbitration. The defense attorney also said Jennifer B. previously obtained money from Masterson in 2004, and told the judge that none of the women reported their allegations to police quickly and all of them changed their stories over time.
The prosecutor countered that there was no collusion and that the women did their best to describe what happened in each individual case.
“These were not rehearsed statements, they were heartfelt,” Mueller said last month.
The prosecutor alleged that N. Trout made it clear to Masterson the night of her visit to his home that she did not want to have sex with him.
Jennifer B. testified that she was a second-generation church member when she met Masterson and struggled to maintain her composure as she described the alleged sexual assault. She told the judge that she drifted in and out of consciousness the night of the incident in April 2003 after Masterson gave her a drink mixed with drugs and vodka.
“I came to and he was on top of me and he was inside of me,” the woman testified.
She said she tried to fight Masterson off with a pillow. Later, he took a pistol out of a dresser drawer and waved it in her presence in the way that a gang member would give a gang sign, she said.
Christina B. — a former girlfriend who had a six-year, live-in relationship with the actor — testified that she reported to a church ethics official that she believed she was the victim of rape during an alleged incident of non-consensual sex with Masterson.
The official responded that someone in a relationship cannot be raped by their partner, then told her not to use the word “rape” again, according to the woman, who testified that she became a member of Scientology after she met the actor.
The District Attorney’s Office declined to file sexual assault charges against Masterson in two other alleged incidents, citing insufficient evidence on one and the statute of limitations on the other.
Masterson was arrested last June 17 by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division.
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 that he was “very disappointed” and “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.”
The 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 filing sexual assault allegations against the actor with Los Angeles police. That case has been sent to arbitration except for the part involving the non-church member.
Source: Orange County Register