Actor Danny Masterson, best known for his work on the sitcom That ’70s Show, has appeared in court on rape charges that date back to the early 2000s.
The charges come at the end of a three-year investigation and relate to three separate incidents with three different women which allegedly occurred between 2001 and 2003.
The 44-year-old did not enter a plea as he stood in court in a blue suit and face mask, while the three women sat in the gallery, according to Sky News.
Masterson was arrested in June this year and charged with three counts of rape. He was alleged to have raped a 23-year-old woman in 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 and a 23-year-old woman sometime between October and December 2003.
The women said in a statement when Masterson was arrested that they had suffered “harassment, embarrassment and re-victimisation” since they began co-operating with authorities but added they were “thankful that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is finally seeking criminal justice.”
Tom Mesereau, Masterson’s lawyer, said his client was “absolutely not guilty” and claimed he had been unfairly harassed by prosecutors as the district attorney faces re-election. The actor has previously denied all the charges.
Mesereau, who also represented Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson in their sexual misconduct cases, said there had been “repeated attempts to politicise” the case.
However, deputy district attorney Reinhold Mueller denied the claims and said the defence’s remarks were “pure speculation, with no basis in fact.”
If convicted, Masterson could face up to 45 years in prison.
In 2017, the Church of Scientology was alleged to have covered up accusations against Masterson, who is a practising Scientologist. According to The Hollywood Reporter, four women who filed a lawsuit against Masterson and the Church in 2019 claimed that they were “stalked and harassed” for doing so.
Masterson portrayed Stephen Hyde in That ’70s Show from 1998-2006. He also appeared in the Netflix series The Ranch, but was fired from the show in 2017 when allegations of sexual assault came to light.