On Tuesday, a prosecutor described rape allegations by three women against actor Danny Masterson two decades ago, which included some of the same disturbing elements.
In his opening statement at the Masterson trial, Deputy Attorney General Reinhold Mueller said two women became dizzy or fainted after the couple drank and were thrown into a hot tub. One said he dragged her to his bed where she regained consciousness to find him having sex with her. A third woman, an ex-girlfriend, said she woke up to find him on top of her.
Masterson’s lawyer said the reason the allegations had so much in common is that the alleged victims violated the investigator’s warning not to talk to each other and “pollinated” their accounts, undermining their credibility.
“If you talk to each other you will pollute this case,” defense attorney Philip Cohen said in Los Angeles Superior Court. “Talking to each other and to other witnesses is fatal to the case.”
Masterson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of forcible rape between 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood home, which served as a community center when it was at the height of its fame.
Cohen urged jurors not to consider Masterson’s affiliation with the Church of Scientology and its connection to the case, while Mueller said that helped explain why the women – all former members of the church – had waited so long to report incidents.
Two of the alleged victims initially went to church to report what had happened to them and were told that it was not rape and that reporting it to the authorities or telling others about it would end up being ostracized by their closest friends and even family members.
“You basically become an enemy of the church,” Mueller said. “You lose everything.”
Cohen said the issue had nothing to do with religion and he repeatedly objected when it was brought up.
Supreme Court Justice Charlene F. Olmedo lawyers firmly that Scientology will not dominate the trial.
The list of trial witnesses is full of members and former members of the church, which has a strong presence in Los Angeles and has counted many famous personalities among its members. The list includes ex-member Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, ex-wife of Michael Jackson, and a friend of one of the alleged victims.
One of the women has been Masterson’s longtime friend. The last was his close friend with his personal assistant, and the third, an actress, was a new acquaintance.
A friend of his aide filed a police report because she was unhappy with the way the Scientology Ethics Board handled her complaint. No charges were brought at the time.
In 2016, she communicated and shared stories with her ex-girlfriend who was one of the accused. Each filed a police report that year. Masterson’s ex-girlfriend said she did so after telling her story to her husband, who helped her understand that she had been raped. The third woman went to the police in 2017.
Cohen said the center back was a “roaring reel of inconsistencies” between what the women initially said and how their calculations changed over time.
A woman who said she was raped after her death from drinking some of the red vodka that Masterson gave him to police said she had consensual sex with him several months ago under similar circumstances. Now she says she did not agree. Masterson is not facing charges regarding these allegations.
Another alleged victim went to Masterson’s home after he invited her. Mueller said she set ground rules not to have sex with him and told him “not to have sex” several times as the doodling progressed. He described Masterson’s alleged assault as so severe that the woman vomited into her mouth and was “limping like a rag doll”.
But Cohen confirmed that the woman stayed in bed with Masterson for hours talking and listening to music, and thought “we should probably start dating” after she left. He said she was appalled when Masterson didn’t call or text her.
The ex-girlfriend said that after her split from Masterson, she had consensual sex with him two more times.
If convicted, Masterson could face up to 45 years in prison.
The Associated Press does not usually mention people who say they were victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.
Masterson was one of the first Hollywood figures to be accused in the #MeToo era. It is one of several high-profile sexual assault cases brought to trial on the fifth anniversary of the reporting of the charges. Against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who turned the #MeToo movement into an international account.
Weinstein’s second rape and sexual assault trial – He was already indicted in New York – Happening at the same time, down the hall from the Masterson House. In New York, the civil trials for actor Kevin Spacey have begun Screenwriter and director Paul HaggisBoth have been prosecuted for sexual assault.
Haggis is himself a Scientology defector, and the judge in this case allows him to say the church is behind the allegations against him.
From 1998 until 2006, Masterson played Stephen Hyde on Fox’s “That ’70s Show,” which starred Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis and Topher Grace and gets an upcoming reboot on Netflix with “That’s 90s Show.”
Masterson reunites with Kutcher in the Netflix comedy The Ranch But the show was scrapped when an LAPD investigation was revealed in December 2017.
Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton
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