Jury Deadlocks in Actor's Rape Trial

Danny Masterson's new trial is scheduled for March
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 19, 2022 12:00 AM CDT
Updated Nov 30, 2022 6:05 PM CST
Rape Trial for That '70s Show Star Begins
Actor Danny Masterson appears at the CMT Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn., on June 7, 2017.   (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP, File)
UPDATE Nov 30, 2022 6:05 PM CST

Seven times over the past two days, the jury in actor Danny Masterson's rape trial took votes on the three charges. The counts were 10-2, 8-4, and 7-5 for acquittal, per the Hollywood Reporter. The jury then said it's clear that its members "are adamant about maintaining our individual positions on each of the three counts" in a letter to the judge. "I find the jury is hopelessly deadlocked," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo said Wednesday. "Therefore, I do declare a mistrial." A new trial tentatively is scheduled to begin March 27.

Oct 19, 2022 12:00 AM CDT

A prosecutor on Tuesday described rape allegations by three women against That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson from two decades ago that contained some of the same disturbing elements, the AP reports. Two women became woozy or passed out after a couple drinks and were tossed in his hot tub, Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said in his opening statement in Masterson's trial. One of them 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 a detective's warning not to speak with each other and had “cross-pollinated” their accounts and undermined their credibility.

“If you speak to each other you will contaminate this case,” they were told, defense attorney Phillip Cohen said in Los Angeles Superior Court. ”Speaking to each other and other witnesses is fatal to a case.” Masterson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of forcible rape between 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood home, which functioned as a social hub when he was at the height of his fame. Cohen urged the jurors not to consider Masterson's affiliation with the Church of Scientology and its relationship to the case, while Mueller said that it helped explain why the women—all former members of the church—waited so long to report the incidents. Cohen said the case had nothing to do with the religion and he repeatedly objected when it was brought up.

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But Mueller said two of the alleged victims first went to the church to report what happened to them and were told it wasn't rape and that reporting it to authorities or telling others about it would end with them being ostracized by their closest friends and even family members. “You essentially become an enemy of the church,” Mueller said. "You lose it all.” Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo sternly reminded the lawyers that Scientology would not dominate the trial. The trial’s witness list is full of members and former members of the church, which has a strong presence in Los Angeles and has counted many famous figures among its members. The list includes former member Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley and former wife of Michael Jackson, a friend of one of the alleged victims. (More on the opening of the trial here.)

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