Considering a trio of sexual assault charges against the actor, a jury found Masterson guilty on two counts of rape but couldn’t reach a decision on another charge.
Danny Masterson was found guilty on Wednesday of raping two women at his Los Angeles home in the early 2000s. But in a split verdict, the jury couldn’t reach a decision on another sexual assault charge.
The jurors, seven women and five men, convicted the That ’70s Show on forcible rape charges involving two women. They were split on a charge relating to ex-girlfriend Chrissie Carnell-Bixler, who has publicly identified herself as one of Masterson’s accusers, with most favoring guilty, eight to four.
Masterson, who was taken into custody, faces 30 years to life in prison.
The decision caps off a retrial in one of the most high-profile criminal cases of the #MeToo movement. The investigation into Masterson was initiated in 2017, when three women came forward with allegations around the same time Harvey Weinstein was publicly accused of sexually assaulting multiple women. In November, a mistrial was declared after the jury said they were deadlocked. Acquittal was favored on each of the charges: 10 to two, eight to four and seven to five.
The trial centered on accusations from three women who testified of violent rapes between 2001 and 2003. They detailed a pattern of Masterson inviting them to his Hollywood Hills home and giving them a drink that quickly made them feel overly intoxicated before the actor raped them. A fourth accuser, known as a “prior bad acts” witness whose allegations didn’t lead to charges, also testified that Masterson raped her in 2001 during a party when he was in the area filming Dracula 2000.
In one instance, Masterson allegedly dragged an accuser into a jacuzzi before she passed out. She said that she woke up on a bed to him penetrating her.
In a statement, Carnell-Bixler said she’s “encouraged that Danny Masterson will face some criminal punishment” but is “devastated that he has dodged criminal accountability for his heinous conduct against me.”
Jane Doe #2 similarly stressed in a statement that she’s “disappointed that he was not convicted on all counts.”
The Church of Scientology played a crucial role in the trial. Allegations against the church were allowed to be considered to explain why the accusers, all of whom are former Scientologists, didn’t contact law enforcement immediately after the alleged assaults. They testified that they feared being labeled a “suppressive person” within the church, which would lead to their expulsion and isolation from other members, and were told that the accusations would be internally handled.
The defense didn’t call any witnesses. Defense attorneys Phillip Cohen and Shawn Holley stressed discrepancies between police reports and testimony. They urged jurors to disregard evidence relating to Scientology. Masterson has maintained that he had consensual sex with his accusers.
He’s been excluded from the That ’70s Show sequel and was fired from Netflix comedy The Ranch in 2017 once the allegations surfaced.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo, who oversaw the trial, indicated she may further investigate the leaking of discovery material to the Church of Scientology. In May, a lawyer for the church emailed the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office challenging prosecutors’ portrayal of the group. The defense has denied that the leak came from them.
The accusers are also pursuing a civil case against the church, which has been paused until Masterson’s criminal proceedings are finished. They claim that they have been harassed by members after reporting their alleged rapes to law enforcement. Last year, the Supreme Court turned down a bid by the church to handle the case in arbitration.
Joshua Ritter, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor, called the conviction “remarkable” considering the district attorney’s office turned around a case that previously ended with a hung jury leaning toward an acquittal.
“The prosecutors were able to focus more heavily on the allegation that Masterson used drugs or intoxication to facilitate the rapes,” he said. “Jurors sometimes have a difficult time when an alleged rape involves a dating relationship, because they have trouble figuring out how sex can be consensual in one instance but rape in another instance. When prosecutors can say the victims were drugged, that allows the jurors to wrap their heads around what changed to make the sex suddenly not consensual.”
Ritter said Masterson will likely be sentenced to roughly 12 years in prison because the actor has no criminal record and the crimes occurred several years ago.