American actor Danny Masterson, a prominent member of the Church of Scientology known for his role in the series That '70s Show, was convicted of raping two women by a Los Angeles jury on Wednesday. The 47-year-old actor was jailed after the hearing, pending his sentencing by a judge on August 4. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
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Three women, also Scientologists, accused him of raping them at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. The jurors agreed with two of them and did not reach the necessary unanimity to reach a verdict on the third. During the trial, prosecutors said the actor had "drugged and raped each of these victims" and called for him to be "held accountable" for his actions.
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This case, triggered in 2017 in the wake of accusations against former producer Harvey Weinstein that caused the explosion of the #MeToo movement, has also raised questions about the role of the Church of Scientology. Two of the plaintiffs said the organization, which is very well established in Los Angeles, had dissuaded them from contacting law enforcement. Danny Masterson's defense insisted that the plaintiffs' version has evolved over the years and suggested that prejudice against Scientology may have motivated the trial.
In a statement, the Church of Scientology said that "the prosecution's introduction of religion into this trial is an unprecedented violation of the First Amendment and violates the due process rights of every American." "The Church was not involved in this case and religion had no place in this proceeding," the statement continued. The organization also denied harassing the complainants and said it would never "discourage its members from reporting criminal acts". At a previous trial in November, a different jury refused to decide because it could not reach unanimity.
Danny Masterson became known in the late 1990s for his role in the series That '70s Show alongside Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. He also appeared more recently alongside the latter in the Netflix series The Ranch, but was disembarked in 2017 after Los Angeles police confirmed they were investigating sexual assault allegations against him.
After the actor's arrest in June 2020, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said it dropped two more sexual assault charges against him, for lack of evidence and because the facts were statute-barred.