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Deadlocked jury leads to mistrial in actor Danny Masterson’s rape case

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A Los Angeles judge declared a mistrial Wednesday after the jury was deadlocked in the case of “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson, who faced three counts of rape, according to multiple news reports.

The charges stem from incidents said to have taken place between 2001 and 2003 — right in the middle of Masterson’s best-known role as Steven Hyde in the popular Fox sitcom that ran from 1998 to 2006 and was nominated for 16 Primetime Emmy Awards.

The jury told Judge Charlaine Olmedo on Nov. 18 that they were “unable to reach a unanimous decision on any of the counts,” Variety reported. The judge said then that members of the jury, who had deliberated for nearly three days, had not spent long enough on the decision to declare a mistrial and ordered them to return after a week-long break for Thanksgiving to restart deliberations.

Reinhold Mueller, a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, said in opening statements that two of the women accusing Masterson of rape — a close friend of his personal assistant and an actress he did not know very well — either became faint or passed out after drinking with him, according to the Associated Press. The third woman was Masterson’s ex-girlfriend, who said he was on top of her when she woke up.

Masterson is a lifelong Scientologist, and all three accusers are former members of the church. Two of them went to the church about Masterson’s behavior and were told it wasn’t rape, the AP reported. The assistant’s friend, who alleged that Masterson threatened her with a gun while raping her, testified that a church official denied her permission to report the actor to police, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Variety reported that Masterson’s ex-girlfriend said she was told by a church official that it was not possible for someone to rape their girlfriend, and that it was her duty to “give him sex whenever he wanted.”

Olmedo insisted that the trial not be dominated by talk of the church and its alleged scare tactics. The L.A. Times reported that after the first witness testified, Olmedo chastised the prosecution for its line of questioning: “I understand these witnesses’ lives may have been completely inundated with Scientology,” Olmedo said. “This trial is not going to be inundated with Scientology.”

In closing arguments, per BuzzFeed News, Mueller pointed to what he saw as a pattern in Masterson’s alleged behavior: “If you were incapacitated in his bed, he would rape you,” Mueller said. “If you were incapacitated elsewhere in the house, he would come and find you. And if you were at his home and you were not yet intoxicated, he would offer you the alcohol to get you there and then forcibly rape you.”

Defense attorney Philip Cohen drew attention to some inconsistencies between details the accusers provided in statements predating the trial and what they said while testifying.

In addition to the criminal case, some of Masterson’s accusers also brought a lawsuit against him and the church, according to the L.A. Times. The newspaper reported that the accusers’ attorney, Brian Kent, previously stated that “the facts of what happened, why certain things happened, who was involved … it’s so interwoven that certain parts of the trial will necessarily have to involve Scientology.”

Masterson was fired from Netflix’s “The Ranch” in 2017 after Los Angeles police began to investigate rape allegations against him. He will not appear in “That ’90s Show,” the Netflix spinoff to “That ’70s Show,” though he described news of it on Instagram last year as “the dopest thing I’ve heard in a decade.”





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