Danny Masterson, actor of “That ’70s show”, is convicted of rape

A jury convicted “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson of two counts of rape Wednesday in a new trial in Los Angeles in which the Church of Scientology played a central role.

The jury, made up of seven women and five men, reached the verdict after deliberating for seven days spread over two weeks. They were unable to reach a verdict on the third count, which alleged that Masterson raped a girlfriend with whom he had a longstanding relationship. They voted 8-4 to convict him.

Masterson left the courtroom in handcuffs. The 47-year-old actor faces up to 30 years in prison.

His wife, actress and model Bijou Phillips, wept as he was led away. Other relatives and friends remained seated expressionless.

Prosecutors, who retried Masterson after a jury failed to reach a verdict in December, claimed he forcibly raped three women, including his girlfriend, at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. They told the jury who drugged them with drinks to be able to rape them. They also noted that he used his prominence in the church, to which all three women belonged at the time, to avoid consequences for decades.

Masterson did not testify and his attorneys did not call witnesses. The defense argued that the acts were consensual and tried to discredit the testimonies of the women, highlighting inconsistencies and changes in their versions over time, which they said showed signs of coordination between them.

“If they decide that a witness deliberately lied about something in this case,” defense attorney Philip Cohen told the jury in his closing argument, “then they should consider not believing anything the witness says.”

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The Church of Scientology played a significant role in the first trial, but it was arguably even more important in the second. Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo allowed expert testimony on church policies from a former leader who has become a prominent opponent of the organization.

Tensions rose in court between current and former Scientologists, even seeping into testimony, with the accusers saying on the stand that they felt intimidated by some members of the courtroom.

Actress Leah Remini, a former member who has become the church’s most high-profile critic, was at times at the trial and put her arm around one of the accusers to comfort her during closing arguments.

Founded in 1953 by L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology has many members who work in Hollywood. The judge limited how much the prosecutors could talk about the church and mainly allowed an explanation of why the women took so long to go to the authorities.

The women proved that when they reported Masterson to church officials, they were told they had not been raped, referred to ethics programs and warned not to go to the police to report such a high-ranking member.

“They were raped, they were punished for it, and they were retaliated against,” Assistant District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told the jury in closing arguments. “Scientology told them there is no justice for them. You have the opportunity to show them that there is justice.”

The church vehemently denied having any policy that prohibits its members from going to secular authorities.

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