Actor Danny Masterson, who starred in That 70s Show, has been sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for the rapes of two women two decades ago.
In May, a jury of seven women and five men found Masterson guilty of two counts after seven days of deliberations. They could not reach a verdict on the third count, an allegation that Masterson also raped a longtime girlfriend. They had voted 8-4 in favor of conviction.
The trial, in which the Church of Scientology repeatedly took centre stage, marked the rare prosecution of a Hollywood figure in the #MeToo era. Prosecutors argued during the trial that Masterson, a prominent scientologist, used his role in the church to avoid accountability for the attacks.
LA superior court judge Charlaine F Olmedo handed down the sentence after hearing statements from the women about the trauma and suffering they experienced.
“When you raped me, you stole from me,” said one woman whom Masterson was convicted of raping in 2003. “That’s what rape is, a theft of the spirit.
“You are pathetic, disturbed and completely violent,” she said. “The world is better off with you in prison.”
The other woman Masterson was found guilty of raping said he “has not shown an ounce of remorse for the pain he caused”. She told the judge, “I knew he belonged behind bars for the safety of all the women he came into contact with. I am so sorry, and I’m so upset. I wish I’d reported him sooner to the police.”
The women whose testimony led to Masterson’s conviction said he gave them drinks and they then became woozy or passed out before he violently raped them.
The attacks took place in Masterson’s Hollywood-area home in 2003, when he was at the height of his fame on US sitcom That 70s Show. Most recently he had appeared on the 2016 Netflix comedy The Ranch, but was written off the show when it was revealed in March 2017 that he was under investigation by the Los Angeles police for rape.
Two of his accusers, former members themselves, say the Church of Scientology discouraged them from contacting law enforcement for years. They testified that when they reported him to Scientology officials, they were told they were not raped, were put through ethics programs themselves and were warned against going to police to report a member of such high standing. One of the women said she was shunned and ostracized for doing so.
The church said in a statement after the verdict that the “testimony and descriptions of Scientology beliefs” during the trial were “uniformly false”.
“The Church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone – Scientologists or not – to law enforcement,” the statement said.
After the sentencing, Masterson’s attorney told reporters outside the courthouse that he plans to appeal his conviction.
“The errors which occurred in this case are substantial, and unfortunately led to verdicts which are not supported by evidence,” Shawn Holley said to the media.
Shortly before Masterson was sentenced, one of the women said she forgives the actor, but believes he deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life.
“I don’t have to carry around your shame around with me. Now, you have to carry it. You have to sit in a cell and carry it,” she said in the courtroom. “Your emptiness and your cowardice will be your true legacy. You are pathetic, disturbed and extremely violent. The world is safer with you behind bars.”