Prosecutors said in their opening statement Monday that “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson was retried for drugging and raping three women at his Hollywood area home between 2001 and 2003.
Masterson is accused of raping his long-term partner, two women he knew through the Church of Scientology, and a third woman he met through a mutual friend. According to Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller, Masterson gave the victims drugs in their beverages.
To the jurors, Mueller stated, “The evidence will show that they were drugged.” The prosecution insists no such evidence exists, while the defense insists it does not.
In the first trial, which ended in a mistrial because the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on any of the three counts, Mueller had to infer that the actress accused of raping them had been drugged based on the women’s testimony that they had been woozy, disoriented, and even unconscious on the nights in question.
At this second trial, however, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo has allowed the direct assertion.
In his opening remarks, Philip Cohen, Masterson’s attorney, said that the prosecution’s case against his client rested entirely on hearsay and that “there is no drugging charge in this case.”
If Found Guilty, Masterson, Now 47 Years Old, Faces 45 Years In Prison
Mueller also told the jury that Church of Scientology leaders convinced the victims their abuse was not rape, therefore they did not report it immediately. Masterson is a well-known believer in the faith. The three ladies are all ex-partakers.
When the women testified in the first trial, the church released a statement saying that it “has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of Scientologists, or of anyone, to law enforcement.”
Another deviation from the original trial is that Olmedo will hear testimony from witnesses who are experts in the relevant policies.
According to Cohen, the prosecution’s expert witness Claire Headley is a former member of the church’s leadership group who tries “to rid the world of Scientology, rid people of Scientology,” and he warned the jury that they would “hear tremendous bias” in Headley’s testimony. Her father-in-law, a current high-level Scientologist, is the expert witness on the defense’s list.
In support of Masterson’s accusers, actor Leah Remini sat in the front row of the courtroom. Remini is a former Scientologist who has become the church’s most visible detractor on social media and through a TV series she hosted showcasing dissident ex-members.
Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo Of The Los Angeles Superior Court Has Allowed Direct Assertion To Be Used In The Retrial
In the opening statement for the defense, Philip Cohen argued that the prosecution’s case against Masterson was based solely on hearsay and made the remark that “there is no drugging charge in this case.”
Since the police investigation that resulted in the two trials did not begin until almost 15 years after the occurrences, attorneys on both sides admitted that there is no forensic evidence of any substances Masterson may have given the ladies.
However, Mueller stated that he will contact a police toxicology unit analyst “who will tell you how some of the most common drug-facilitated sexual assaults, how some of the most common date rape drugs work, how quickly they’re metabolized, what side effects look like.”
Cohen retorted, “A toxicologist may render whatever opinion they choose; however, there is no toxicology report, no urine, blood work, or DNA.”
Cohen was repeatedly scolded by Olmedo for referencing the earlier trial’s testimony, but he insisted that new evidence would emerge showing that one of the women Masterson is accused of raping had observed him prepare the supposedly drugged drink he gave her.
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What Are These Accusations?
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office claims in their trial brief that Masterson raped Jen B. in April of 2003 after she picked up his keys and he served her a red vodka cocktail at his home. In the next half an hour or so, she felt “very disoriented,” as the summary puts it.
The complaint states that after she came to his bed, Masterson sexually assaulted her. She allegedly pushed a pillow into his face and went for his hair to pull him off. The affidavit claims that Masterson warned the woman not to move or “say anything,” including expletives when she heard a guy ranting inside the house.
Masterson allegedly raped Christina B., who had been in a relationship with and lived with him for six years, according to the trial brief.
According to the filing, she discovered Masterson “having sex with her” in November 2001 and confronted him about it. She is quoted as saying, “I fought back,” in the official record.
When he wanted to have sex with me, I pushed him away and told him, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” It also says that she yanked his hair and he slapped her.
What Role Does The Scientology Religion Play?
Two of the women testifying against Masterson have said that they were discouraged from going to the police because they were members of the Church of Scientology, which Masterson also attended.
The brief adds that Jen B. asked the church for authorization to disclose the rape verbally and in writing and that she received a written answer from the church’s international chief justice that referred to a policy memo from 1965 regarding “suppressive acts.”
The response made it clear to her that “I would be declared a suppressive person and I would be out of my family and friends and everything I have,” as the brief puts it. According to the report, she nonetheless went to the police in June 2004 to report the rape.
According to the affidavit, Christina B. reported the rape to the church’s “ethics officer” or “master at arms,” who told her, “You can’t rape someone that you’re in a relationship with” and “Don’t say that word again.”
The officer explained to her the “policies and things in the Ethics Book about high crimes in Scientology.” According to the summary, she said that one of them had “reported another Scientologist to law enforcement.”
According to the filing, she knew that reporting the incident to law enforcement would result in “the church destroying” her and labeling her a “suppressive person.”
The church has strenuously refuted claims that it coerces its members. In an emailed statement sent on October 21st, the church accused prosecutors of introducing Scientology into the trial and misrepresenting its theories and beliefs “to stir up passion and prejudice in the uninformed.”
The church “does not discourage anyone from reporting any alleged crime or tell anyone not to report any alleged criminal conduct,” the statement reads. The church does not discourage its members from reporting illegal activity committed by Scientologists or anyone else to the authorities. On the contrary. Scientologists are required by church policy to obey all local, state, and federal regulations.