June 6, 2023

American actor Danny Masterson drugged women’s potions so he could rape them before relying on his notoriety in the Church of Scientology to avoid the consequences, a jury has said in the closing arguments of his trial.

Masterson, a former star of the popular US sitcom That 70s Show, is on trial for rape for a second time after the first ended in a mistrial in December, with a jury deadlocked on all counts.

Prosecutor Ariel Anson told the jury, “The defendant uses his victims to gain control. He does this to wrest consent from his victims.

“Don’t you want to have sex? You don’t have a choice. The defendant makes that choice for these victims. And he does it over and over again.”

The 47-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to the rape of three women in his home between 2001 and 2003.

His attorney Philip Cohen told jurors it’s important to be mindful of inconsistencies in the women’s stories.

“[Ms Anson] did a really good job ignoring a lot of them,” Mr Cohen said.

Ms. Anson aimed her speech at the controversial Church of Scientology, of which Masterson is a member and all three women are former members.

She stressed that for years the church authorities prevented the women from accepting what had happened to them and from reporting to the police.

“The church taught its victims ‘rape is not rape, you caused this, and above all, you should never go to the police,'” she said.

“In Scientology, the defendant is a celebrity and he is untouchable.”

The church has denied having any policy that discourages members from going to the police.

Leah Remini, an actress and former member of the Church who has become one of its most prominent public opponents, sat in court, her arm around one of the accusers, who testified at both trials that Masterson raped her in 2003 .

Ms. Anson guided jurors through the evidence from all three women.

One is a former girlfriend who said Masterson raped her five years into their relationship in 2001. The two others are women he knew through social circles around the church.

All told the court they became unusually dizzy and had gaps in consciousness and memory after consuming drinks Masterson gave them.

Allegations against Masterson were first made in 2017

Judge Charlaine Olmedo allowed the prosecution to say directly at the second trial that he drugged the women after allowing only descriptions of their condition in the first trial.

There is no physical evidence of any anesthesia. The investigation that led to Masterson’s arrest only began about 15 years after the women said they had been raped.

Ms Anson told jurors that the women’s stories and evidence from a police toxicologist describing the symptoms should be enough.

“We ask that you hold the defendant accountable,” she said, “that you consider him guilty.”

Less than half of the jurors voted to convict Masterson after the first trial.

Lawyers for both sides dropped their cases on Friday, three weeks after the second trial began. Masterson’s lawyers declined to call witnesses.

His lawyer stressed on Tuesday that jurors should find him guilty when there is no reasonable doubt, saying that even if they think he is likely guilty, they should acquit them.

“If you say, ‘I think he’s probably guilty,’ do you know where that leads?” said Mr. Cohen. “Not guilty.”