After his second trial on allegations that he sexually assaulted multiple women he met through the Church of Scientology in the early 2000s, actor Danny Masterson was found guilty of two counts of rape on Wednesday.
After a little more than a week of deliberation, the jury was deadlocked on the third count. Around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, they got in touch with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo to let her know that they had decided on two of the three rape charges against Masterson but were completely at a loss for words on the third.
During a trial in late 2022, the jury previously deadlocked on all charges brought against Masterson.
A mixture of Masterson’s family, friends, and supporters, as well as other onlookers, filled the courtroom. Bijou Phillips, the actor’s wife, started crying shortly after the decision was announced and let forth a painful scream.
In the almost two-week trial, the majority of the accusations made against Masterson were first made public in 2017. The victims, Chrissy B., Jen B., and N. Trout, were all active Scientologists when they crossed paths with Masterson through the organization.
The jury found Masterson guilty of sexually assaulting Jen B. and N. Trout, but they were deadlocked on Chrissy B.
Two of the women claimed they delayed coming forward for more than ten years because church leaders advised against contacting law police, placing them in the unenviable position of having to decide between their faith and holding the man who allegedly sexually assaulted them accountable.
All of the women had Scientology-affiliated family members and were afraid that if they disagreed with Masterson and the church, they would be excommunicated and called “suppressive persons.”
Officials from the Scientology have always refuted claims that members are forbidden from helping the police. However, L.A. Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo said following a preliminary hearing in 2021 that the church has “an expressly written doctrine” that forbids members from informing law police about one another. Olmedo’s interpretation is wrong, according to the church.
All of the women claimed being taken advantage of by Masterson after he gave them drinks that left them queasy and disoriented. One of Masterson’s defense attorneys, Phillip Cohen, has consistently stated that there is no forensic evidence to support the prosecution’s claim that the victims were drugged.
Chrissy B. claimed that Masterson subjected her to a turbulent and abusive relationship during which he regularly spit on her, referred to her as “white trash,” and started having sex with her while she slept. She claimed that she woke up to Masterson imposing himself on her in November 2021. She testified that after she said no, he hit her, held her down, and sexually assaulted her.
She further claimed that after Masterson gave her a drink at La Poubelle in Franklin Village in 2001, she passed out and woke up the next morning in excruciating pain at the actor’s house in the Hollywood Hills. According to a letter she wrote to a Scientology official that was submitted at trial, Masterson told her they had intercourse, which horrified her.
After having a drink with Masterson, Jen B. claimed to feel weak and woozy. Masterson allegedly drove her to his house where he assaulted her forcefully while brandishing a gun and suffocated her with a pillow. N. Trout related a similar story, claiming that after she became frail, Masterson isolated her at his home. She claimed that before raping her with such ferocity that she puked, he grabbed her and digitally penetrated her in the shower.
All wrongdoing has been denied by Masterson. He did not offer testimony at either trial, and at the second trial, his attorneys did not present a defense. Cohen, however, questioned whether the victims were motivated by a bias towards the church rather than anything Masterson had done throughout his cross-examinations and arguments. Cohen also pointed out time and time again that the prosecution had no way to confirm any of the assaults and no evidence of drugging.
The presence of the church has dominated the proceedings. The news that a church attorney got discovery files in the case has spurred an LAPD inquiry and accusations of improper behavior from prosecutors, in addition to the women’s claims that Scientology leaders discouraged them from reporting the rapes to police.
According to Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Reinhold Mueller, the evidence obtained by attorney Vicki Podberesky included censored text conversations exchanged between Masterson’s accusers and LAPD investigators.
Olmedo postponed a hearing that was supposed to take place on Wednesday morning to determine how Podberesky obtained the files because of ongoing discussions. Podberesky said last month that she obtained the information legitimately and without breaking the law, but she refuses to say how.
This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times.