The judge in Danny Masterson’s rape trial on Wednesday declared a mistrial after the jury said they were unable to reach a decision on the actor’s innocence or guilt.
The jury was deadlocked after weeks of hearing testimonies from three women who accused Masterson of raping them and others who corroborated their statements. In not making a decision, the Los Angeles County Superior Court panel left unresolved the women’s claims that the actor, best known for his role on the sitcom That ’70s Show, was visiting her at his Hollywood Hills home violently attacked in the early 2000s.
Prosecutors must now decide whether to try Masterson again.
Like Masterson, the three women were members of the Church of Scientology at the time of the alleged attacks, and prosecutors in the trial delved into the mysterious rules of the faith for its followers. Two of the women said they delayed filing Masterson’s complaint because they feared church officials would sanction them.
The women told jurors that Masterson treated them with alcohol before assaulting them in the bathroom and bedroom of his Hollywood Hills home.
“He’s very charming in front of people,” testified Christina B., who was Masterson’s girlfriend for six years.
But the charm can turn into violent anger when alone with him, the women said.
“And just his face- [I’d] I’ve never seen it like this,” testified Jen B. Masterson’s facial expression, describing the actor who lobbied her in April 2003. “Oh God. So creepy.”
Jen B. and a third accuser, N. Trout, said Masterson forced them into his backyard hot tub despite their pleas to stop. Jen B. said he pointed a gun during the attack and choked her unconscious.
“I thought I was going to die,” she testified in October.
“What are you doing? … You can’t do this,” Trout told Masterson at the time. “Why did you do that? I said no.”
Christina B., who dated Masterson in the late 1990s and early 2000s, testified that the actor was often violent towards her during their relationship and accused him of raping her in her sleep in November 2001. She said she woke up and begged him to stop, then pulled Masterson’s hair to get him to give in. In response, he slapped her in the face and spat at her, she testified.
“Three victims … were violently raped by this defendant, Danny Masterson,” Deputy Dist said. atty said Reinhold Mueller in closing arguments earlier this month, pointing to Masterson, who was sitting across the courtroom. “A man who controlled and a man for whom ‘no’ never meant ‘no’. ”
The Times generally does not name victims of sexual assault unless they choose to fully identify themselves. To protect their privacy, the three women who accused Masterson were identified in court by either their first name and last initial or their first initial and last name.
The allegations against Masterson played out against a Scientology background, and the trial offered a glimpse into the secretive world of the church’s Celebrity Center International in Hollywood, where prosecutors and prosecutors said the church was working to protect the actor from the allegations .
All three of Masterson’s accusers have since left the Church.
Jen B. and Christina B. testified that they feared being labeled “suppressive” by the church if they reported Masterson to law enforcement. This would have required their families and friends in Scientology to stop contacting them, they said.
“I was a Scientologist and Mr. Masterson is a Scientologist and you can’t report another Scientologist in good standing to the authorities,” said Jen B. “My life would be over. My parents would have to separate from me. … I could never speak to any of my friends again. … I would have nowhere to work or live.”
Christina B. testified that her Scientology “ethics officers” told her that you could not be raped by your significant other — or “second dynamic,” as partners are called in the church.
The Church of Scientology denies protecting Masterson or dissuading any of the accusers from prosecuting her rape allegations. The church also says it has never declared any of the women to be oppressive.
“The Church does not discourage anyone from reporting suspected crimes or encourages anyone not to report suspected criminal activity. The church has no policy prohibiting or preventing members from reporting criminal conduct by Scientologists or anyone to law enforcement,” spokeswoman Karin Pouw said in a statement. “On the contrary, Church policy specifically requires Scientologists to obey all laws of the land.”
The Masterson trial coincided with another high-profile rape case, with the trial of former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein taking place on the 9th floor of the same downtown LA courthouse.
It also coincided with the civil trial in New York of Oscar winner Paul Haggis, a former Scientologist accused of raping a woman in 2013. Haggis speculated that the rape allegations were a conspiracy put forward by Scientology. A jury this month found Haggis liable for sexual assault and ordered him to pay his accuser $10 million.
The Masterson and Haggis trials led to the Church becoming embroiled in sex scandals on both sides of the country.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo made a limited testimony about religion at Masterson’s trial.
She allowed the women to explain how their involvement in Scientology led them to delay reporting their allegations against Masterson to the police. Olmedo also said they could tell the jury their belief that church policy prohibits reporting crimes committed by other Scientologists to law enforcement.
Defense attorney Philip Cohen argued that Scientology is the “elephant in the room.”
“We have listened to Scientology over and over again. … It really became an excuse. If someone didn’t remember something or something was contradicted, it was Scientology,” he concluded.
Cohen worked to convince the jury that the women’s stories did not match and that they had joined forces to make false accusations against his client.
The prosecution’s case, he said, “ignored the glaring, obvious, mind-blowing contradictions and fabrications that each Jane Doe has given you.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-30/mistrial-in-danny-masterson-rape-trial-after-jury-deadlocks Mistrial in Danny Masterson rape trial