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Danny Masterson Criminal Rape Retrial Goes to Jury

danny-masterson-RS-1800 - Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
danny-masterson-RS-1800 - Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Closing statements for Danny Masterson’s criminal rape retrial ended on Wednesday morning in court in Downtown Los Angeles, and the case now goes to the jury to deliberate. Prosecutors harkened back to violent allegations that Danny Masterson drugged and raped three women during their closing argument for the That ’70s Show star’s retrial and asked the jury to hold Masterson accountable and convict him. Masterson’s attorneys, meanwhile, pointed to inconsistencies in the victims’ stories that they said tarnished their credibility.

As longtime Scientology reporter Tony Ortega reported in the Underground Bunker on Wednesday, during the prosecution’s final rebuttal before the jury entered deliberations, deputy district attorney Reinhold Mueller told the jurors that guilty should be “the only verdict” in the case, and he called on them to deliver justice he said the Church of Scientology didn’t give the women who accused him.

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“You have the opportunity to show them there is justice for them. It does exist,” Mueller said, as Ortega reported. “There were no consequences for Mr. Masterson from this internal church justice. You have the opportunity to show that there are consequences for his actions, they do exist.”

The Church of Scientology didn’t immediately reply to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment regarding Mueller’s claim. The trial has been noteworthy because of its links to the organization; Masterson is a prominent member the Church of Scientology, and all of the women who’ve accused him of rape are former Scientologists. The accusers have repeatedly claimed that the Church of Scientology discouraged them from coming forward with their allegations and protected Masterson. Going to the police was against the organization’s laws and could result in severe consequences, the accusers have alleged. The accusers testified they were told that it wasn’t possible for them to be raped and that it was the result of their actions. They also alleged going to the police was against Scientology’s rules and could result in severe consequences. The organization has previously denied those claims to Rolling Stone, calling them “fabrications.”

Masterson, first arrested in 2020 on three counts of forcible rape dating back to allegations from 2001 to 2003, pleaded not guilty and denied the allegations. He faces 45 years in prison if convicted. This is the second trial Masterson faces on the rape charges after the first trial ended in a mistrial last November as the jury was deadlocked and couldn’t unanimously agree on verdicts for any of the charges. However, the jurors’ votes on all the charges last trial leaned the majority to acquit Masterson.

As was reflected by Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson’s closing arguments, a notable change compared to the first trial was that prosecutors told jurors directly that Masterson drugged the three women who accused him of rape, though there wasn’t any proof of that allegation. In the initial trial, while the prosecutors and women had described symptoms that would line up with date rape drugs — including memory loss, disorientation, and quick onset nausea even if they didn’t drink much alcohol — the allegation was more loosely implied than outright stated.

“The defendant drugs his victims to gain control. He does this to take away his victims’ ability to consent,” Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson told the court on Tuesday, as the Associated Press reported. “You don’t want to have sex? You don’t have a choice. The defendant makes that choice for these victims. And he does it over and over and over again.”

“It all starts with a drink,” Anson said, per Deadline. “How many times have you heard the defendant ask, ‘Would you like a drink?’ This is his playbook. This is what he does… how he ensures to get what he wants.”

Per the AP, Masterson’s defense team started their closing arguments by Tuesday afternoon, and prosecution started their final rebuttal Tuesday before wrapping Wednesday.

As he had done last trial, Masterson’s attorney Phillip Cohen implored the jury to focus on inconsistencies in the victims’ stories, which he said casts enough doubt on the claims that Masterson shouldn’t be convicted.

“She did a very nice job of ignoring many of them,” Cohen said of Anson and any potential issues with the victims’ allegations, per the AP. “What she views as little inconsistencies are at the heart of trying to determine, ‘Is somebody, reliable, credible, believable enough for a criminal conviction?’”

Like the last trial, Cohen also said the victims tainted their case because they communicated with one another to straighten their story. He also questioned the drugging claims, noting the lack of evidence.

“What is not here is evidence of drugs,” Cohen said. “Miss Anson presented a case as if she was arguing a drugging case. Maybe it’s because there is no evidence of force or violence.”

In a statement, John Kucera, the personal attorney for two of Masterson’s accusers, highlighted the strain reliving the allegations puts on the victims.

“Our clients have consistently and repeatedly stated that Mr. Masterson brutally raped them, from their first reports to the LAPD to their testimony in court years later,” Kucera said. “Testifying in this re-trial and reliving these horrific moments — in front of strangers and hostile parties — speaks to their courage and resolve.”

This story was updated on 5/17 at 2:25 p.m. ET to note that closing statements have ended, and the trial has gone to the jury for deliberations.

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