A US jury has been told that Danny Masterson allegedly used his “untouchable” position in the Church of Scientology to avoid consequences for drugging and raping women.
The American actor — who first rose to global fame following his appearance as Steven Hyde in the sitcom That ‘70s Show — is on trial for the second time following allegations of rape. The first ended in a mistrial back in December 2022.
Masterson is accused of three charges of rape, all taking place at his home between the period of 2001 and 2003. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In the closing arguments of Friday’s trial (May 14), the jury were told that the actor drugged women’s drinks so he could rape them, and later relied on his influence in the Church of Scientology to avoid facing any consequences.
“The defendant drugs his victims to gain control. He does this to take away his victims’ ability to consent,” said Prosecution lawyer Ariel Anson at the trial (via Sky News). “You don’t want to have sex? You don’t have a choice. The defendant makes that choice for these victims. And he does it over and over and over again.”
Following the allegations, the 47-year-old actor has consistently denied all charges filed against him.
Counteracting the claims made by Anson, Masterson’s lawyer Philip Cohen highlighted the inconsistencies within the stories of those making the accusations. “[Ms Anson] did a very nice job of ignoring many of them,” he told jurors. “What she views as little inconsistencies are at the heart of trying to determine is somebody, reliable, credible, believable enough for a criminal conviction?”
In her case, Anson also insinuated that the controversial Church of Scientology allowed Masterson to believe he could get away with any alleged wrongdoing, and claimed that the church had the influence to prevent the women from reporting the events to the police.
“The church taught his victims ‘rape isn’t rape, you caused this, and above all, you are never allowed to go to law enforcement’,” she said. “In Scientology, the defendant is a celebrity and he is untouchable.”
The church has denied having any policy discouraging members from going to law enforcement.
One person supporting the accusations against Masterson of the charges is The King Of Queens actress and former member of the church Leah Remini — who gave evidence during both trials that she was raped by the actor in 2003.
Of the three women accusing Masterson, one is a former girlfriend who claimed that the actor raped her in 2001, five years into their relationship. The other two are said
to have met him through circles surrounding the church (via Sky News).
There is no physical evidence to suggest that Masterson drugged any of the women, however, to this Anson told jurors that a police toxicology expert who described the symptoms should be enough.
Back in February, That ‘70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher opened up about the sexual abuse allegations facing Masterson. Speaking to Esquire the actor expressed his hope that the accusations are false, as Masterson had been a huge mentor for him throughout his career.
“Ultimately, I can’t know,” he said. “I’m not the judge. I’m not the jury. I’m not the DA. I’m not the victim. And I’m not the accused. And so, in that case, I don’t have a space to comment. I just don’t know.”