US actor Danny Masterson, known for his role in the TV series That ’70s Show, has been sentenced to serve 30 years to life in prison for raping two women. The crimes occurred in the early 2000s during the height of his television fame.
Scientology Allegations and Impact Statements: Prosecutors argued that Masterson had used his status as a prominent Scientologist to evade accountability. Judge Charlaine Olmedo allowed the victims to read impact statements in court before his sentencing. Actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist, attended the hearing to support the women who delivered their statements. One of the victims expressed regret for not reporting Masterson to the police earlier. Another woman forgave him, stating, “Your sickness is no longer mine to bear.” Masterson remained silent during the hearing. As Judge Olmedo read the maximum penalty sentence, Masterson’s wife, Bijou Phillips, was seen breaking down in tears.
Guilty Verdict and Flight Risk: Masterson was found guilty in May during a re-trial after the first jury was unable to reach a verdict in 2022. Following his conviction, Masterson was deemed a flight risk and taken into prison custody. The actor was convicted based on testimony from three women who stated that he had sexually assaulted them at his Hollywood home from 2001 to 2003. They also mentioned that he had given them drugs before the assaults. Masterson was found guilty of rape against two of the three accusers, and charges related to the third accuser were declared a mistrial.
Strength of Victims and Allegations Against Scientology: Alison Anderson, a lawyer representing two of the victims, commended their strength and bravery for coming forward and participating in two grueling criminal trials. Throughout the trial, prosecutors alleged that the Church of Scientology had helped cover up the assaults, which the organization firmly denied. At the time of the attacks, Masterson and all three accusers were Scientologists. Some of the women claimed they hesitated to come forward because Scientology officials discouraged them from reporting the rapes to the police. Scientology officials allegedly pressured one survivor to sign a non-disclosure agreement and accept a payment of $400,000 (£320,000) in exchange for not reporting the rape to authorities.
Impact on Victims and Scientology’s Response: One victim described being shunned by her mother, who is still a practicing Scientologist, after speaking out. Another woman revealed that she had been harassed and terrorized by the Church of Scientology ever since she reported the crimes but expressed no regrets for doing so. In response to the verdict in May, the Church of Scientology stated that there was “not a scintilla of evidence supporting the scandalous allegations that the Church harassed the accusers.”
Background and #MeToo Movement: Danny Masterson was first accused of rape in 2017 during the height of the #MeToo movement. He consistently denied the accusations, asserting that each encounter was consensual. Charges were filed after a three-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Prosecutors did not file charges in two other cases due to insufficient evidence and the expiration of the statute of limitations.
The sentencing was attended by Jessica Barth, founder of Voices in Action, a non-profit organization that encourages survivors to come forward and report abuse. Barth was one of the women who publicly accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of abuse.
Danny Masterson’s sentencing marks a significant moment in the #MeToo movement, highlighting the importance of holding individuals accountable for their actions and shedding light on the challenges faced by survivors of sexual assault, particularly in cases involving powerful figures and institutions.