One of the legendary show actors in the seventies, Danny Masterson, was told by a judge that he must stand trial on three counts of rape on Friday.
CBS News reported that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo made the determination on the fourth day of a preliminary hearing where the prosecution laid out its evidence.
The evidence included emotional testimony from three women who took the stand to say that Masterson raped them in 2001 and 2003.
Olmedo stated that she found the women’s testimony credible for the purposes of a preliminary hearing, where the bar for sufficient evidence is much lower than at trial.
Although Masterson has denied the charges, his attorney, Thomas Mesereau said the actor had consensual sex with the women, adding that he would prove his client’s innocence.
But he declined to comment on the judge’s decision outside court.
During the hearing, Mesereau repeatedly challenged the women on discrepancies in their stories in the years since they said they were raped and suggested that the prosecution was tainted by anti-religious bias against the Church of Scientology.
Masterson is a prominent scientologist, all three women are former scientologists and the church and its teachings came up constantly during testimony.
The judge said she found the women’s explanations credible that church teachings kept them from reporting their accusations to police for years.
The 45-year-old actor has been set free on bail since his June arrest. He is charged with three counts of rape by force or fear and could get up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
The forthcoming trial represents the rare prosecution of a Hollywood figure in the #MeToo era despite dozens of investigations by police and the Los Angeles district attorney, most of which have ended without charges.
The allegations happened at the height of Masterson’s fame, when he starred as Steven Hyde on Fox TV’s retro sitcom “That ’70s Show” from 1998 to 2006 alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace.
He had reunited with Kutcher on the Netflix Western sitcom “The Ranch” when the LAPD investigation of him was revealed in March 2017. The news did not have immediate career repercussions for Masterson, but later in the year, after allegations against Harvey Weinstein shook Hollywood, he was written off the show.
In response to Eyewitness News’ report on Danny Masterson, Church of Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw issued the following statement:
“It is an outrageous and bigoted falsehood that Scientology forbids the reporting of criminal conduct by Scientologists – or by anyone – to law enforcement. There is no prohibition on reporting crimes to law enforcement in any Scientology policy. The assertion that there is such a policy is contrary to actual Church policy which explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land. The truth is that Scientologists live by the highest ethical standards and despise crime and criminal conduct.
It is a vicious slur against Scientology to suggest that persons who faithfully report crimes to law enforcement would be declared a “suppressive person.” The proposition is a complete lie. The Church and its members are known for upholding high moral standards and abiding by the law-and that includes reporting criminal activity to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
The women in question have not been declared “suppressive persons.” They have misrepresented this, as they have misrepresented every other aspect about Scientology as part of their money shake-down. The Church did not tell or discourage any one of them from reporting any alleged crime. The Church has prevailed in every proceeding where it has faced these women because the Church tells the truth. ”
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