Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — After a pair of trials focused on the Church of Scientology’s alleged attempts to shield one of its celebrity members from prosecution, actor Danny Masterson was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison on Thursday morning after having been convicted of raping two former members of the church.
Masterson, 47, was convicted of two counts of rape in May, and a jury deadlocked on a third woman’s accusations. The assaults took place in the early 2000s, but Masterson’s victims said they waited years to come forward because Scientology doctrine forbade them from reporting a fellow member to police.
The sentencing played out to a packed courtroom, including Masterson’s wife, Bijou Phillips; his family; and actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist turned advocate who has worked alongside the victims throughout the trial. Because he was convicted of assaulting multiple women, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo could sentence Masterson only to either 15 years to life or 30 years to life in state prison. The judge gave Masterson 15 years to life on each count, ordering the sentences to be served consecutively.
Masterson, who entered the courtroom in a gray suit with slicked back hair and a full beard he has grown since the trial, did not speak at his sentencing and did not testify in his own defense at either trial.
During testimony, each victim described in graphic detail violent assaults at Masterson’s Hollywood Hills home during the height of his fame, when he starred as the mercurial Steven Hyde on the popular sitcom “That ’70s Show.” All of the women described falling prey to Masterson after he served them drinks that made them disoriented and nauseated. Each accuser was identified in court only by a single initial and either their first or last name.
Chrissie B., a former girlfriend of Masterson, said they were involved in a tumultuous and abusive relationship that started after she moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling. Masterson, she alleged, repeatedly spat on her, called her “white trash” and initiated sex with her while she was asleep. One night in November 2001, she awoke to Masterson forcing himself on her. When she said no, he pinned her down and raped her, she testified.
Jen B. said she became weak and woozy after having a drink with Masterson, who then brought her to his home and raped her wielding a gun and suffocating her with a pillow. N. Trout described a similar experience, saying Masterson isolated her at his house once she grew weak after being served a drink. As she lost the ability to fight, Trout said, Masterson groped her and digitally penetrated her while she was in a shower before raping her so violently that she vomited.
In their victim impact statements, the women Masterson was convicted of raping recounted how much speaking out had cost them.
Jen B. recounted the last time she spoke to her mother, who is still a practicing Scientologist, in 2020.
“She texted me and told me to never contact her again,” Jen B. said. “She had warned me ahead of time she wanted to see Danny Masterson locked away for what he’d done to me, but not at the expense of her religion.”
N. Trout said she’s been tormented by the church for speaking out against Masterson, but the conviction made the alleged stalking worth it.
“Since the week I came forward to police I have been terrorized, harassed and had my privacy invaded daily by the cult of Scientology for almost 7 years now,” she said. “But I don’t regret it.”
Jurors ultimately deadlocked on the charges linked to Chrissie B. but convicted Masterson of assaulting Jen B. and N. Trout. An earlier trial, in late 2022, ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict on any count, although a poll of the deadlocked panel revealed eight to 10 members were leaning toward an acquittal on each count.
Masterson’s defense team issued a statement after the sentencing that said they have “identified a number of significant evidentiary and constitutional issues which they will address in briefs to both state and federal appellate courts.”
“The errors which occurred in this case are substantial and unfortunately, led to verdicts which are not supported by the evidence,” the defense statement said. “And though we have great respect for the jury in this case and for our system of justice overall, sometimes they get it wrong. And that’s what happened here.”
The statement added that, “Mr. Masterson did not commit the crimes for which he has been convicted,” and said his lawyers are “confident that these convictions will be overturned.”
The church has repeatedly denied that it has a policy barring members from reporting one another to police. But at a preliminary hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Reinhold Mueller read passages from “Introduction to Scientology Ethics,” a 528-page tome written by church founder L. Ron Hubbard, that discourages Scientologists from reporting fellow parishioners to police. One victim testified she understood the book to be official church doctrine. Olmedo agreed, and ruled the church had such a policy.
Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw blasted the introduction of church doctrines at trial as an “unprecedented violation” of the 1st Amendment.
But the church’s legal entanglements in L.A. are only just beginning. Masterson’s victims have a pending civil suit against him and Scientology, litigation that can now go forward as the criminal proceedings have closed. Remini has also sued the organization for harassment, claiming they’ve spent years trying to intimidate the actress into ceasing her activism.