Actor Danny Masterson convicted of two counts of rape at second Los Angeles trial

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Actor Danny Masterson was convicted of two counts of rape Wednesday after his second trial on charges that he sexually assaulted three women he met through the Church of Scientology, ending a years-long legal saga that marked a rare instance of the controversial faith’s practices being dragged into a courtroom.

After a week of deliberations, jurors were convinced the 47-year-old actor — who rose to prominence as the mercurial Steven Hyde on the sitcom “That ’70s Show” — had sexually assaulted two women identified as Jen B. and N. Trout inhis Hollywood Hills home in the early 2000s.

The jurors hung on a third count stemming from allegations made by Chrissie B., who was once Masterson’s longtime girlfriend. The jury foreperson said the panel was leaning toward a guilty verdict on that count but was deadlocked 8 to 4 in favor of conviction.

Masterson remained calm and even chatty in the hallways of the downtown L.A. courthouse during deliberations. He did not visibly react to the verdict. His wife, model and actress Bijou Phillips, let out a pained cry when the verdict was read and sobbed heavily as Masterson was led away in handcuffs.

Masterson faces 30 years to life in prison at sentencing. He is due back in court in early August. A spokeswoman for his defense team declined to comment on the verdict.

“I am experiencing a complex array of emotions — relief, exhaustion, strength, sadness — knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will face accountability for his criminal behavior,” N. Trout said in a statement. “I am disappointed that he was not convicted on all counts, but take great solace in the fact that he, the Church of Scientology, and others, will have to fully account for their abhorrent actions in civil court.”

Jurors previously hung on all counts against Masterson during a trial in late 2022, with most leaning toward an acquittal. But prosecutors sought a retrial, and in their second attempt, Deputy Dist. Attys. Reinhold Mueller and Ariel Anson focused much more heavily on the idea that Masterson not only preyed on members of his own church, but also used drugs to isolate them and make them vulnerable before each assault.

The church loomed large over the proceedings, as it has ever since Los Angeles police began investigating Masterson in 2017. At the time, the actor dismissed the claims as an attempt to slander Scientology.

But after then-Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey brought rape charges against Masterson in 2020, prosecutors made the church’s teachings a central tenet of their case. Each of the victims, they argued, waited years to report the rapes to police because they feared excommunication from Scientology for reporting Masterson.

At various hearings since 2021, the women have testified that they were either discouraged from contacting law enforcement by Scientology officials or were told the incidents they described were not rape.

On the witness stand, each victim also expressed fear that reporting Masterson would lead the church to label them “suppressive persons,” effectively enemies of Scientology, and that their families would be barred from speaking to them.

Scientology officials have repeatedly denied prohibiting members from cooperating with police. But after a 2021 preliminary hearing in Masterson’s case , L.A. County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo ruled the church has “an expressly written doctrine” that discourages members from reporting one another to law enforcement.

The church has said Olmedo’s interpretation is incorrect. At the time of Olmedo’s ruling, Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw said church policy “explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land, including the reporting of crimes. This is blatantly clear in the documents we understand were put before the Court — and many others.”

In response to a request for comment Wednesday, Pouw provided a statement from the church that called the “introduction of religion” into the trial “an unprecedented violation” of the 1st Amendment: “The District Attorney unconscionably centered his prosecution on the defendant’s religion and fabrications about the Church to introduce prejudice and inflame bigotry. The DA elicited testimony and descriptions of Scientology beliefs and practices which were uniformly FALSE.”

The church has appeared sensitive to the optics of the Masterson case. Beginning during the first trial last year, the church began to run commercials featuring its leader, David Miscavige, urging viewers to learn more about the religion from the church itself.

“If you haven’t heard it from us, we’re not what you expect,” Miscavige says in the advertisement.

During the trial, a church organization claiming to oppose discrimination against Scientology has repeatedly targeted journalists covering the case, mocking them online and plastering the word “bigot” across doctored pictures of each reporter following any coverage that could be perceived as negative.

“The fact that it’s Danny Masterson from ‘That ’70s Show’ … it’s not just local media reporting on a local case, it blows it up way bigger. It becomes part of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein,” said former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, who is now an outspoken critic of the church, during a 2021 interview with The Times. “That instantly puts it into a different zone. Within Scientology, this becomes panic stations, high alert.”

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