Danny Masterson's retrial on rape charges begins with Scientology link front and center
Los Angeles, California - For the second time in less than a year, actor Danny Masterson sat in a Los Angeles courtroom Monday as prosecutors tried to make the case that he is a serial rapist whose accusers' voices were quashed for years by the powerful Church of Scientology.
Masterson is charged with multiple counts of rape stemming from allegations that he sexually assaulted three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003, near the height of his fame for playing Steven Hyde on the popular sitcom That '70s Show. Prosecutors allege that he drugged two of the women before sodomizing them.
The Los Angeles Police Department began investigating Masterson in 2016, but at least one of the women's claims was brought to the agency's attention as early as 2003, authorities have said. Former LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey filed three counts of sexual assault against the actor in 2020. That prosecution ended in a mistrial in November, after jurors told Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo that they were deadlocked.
While church officials and Masterson's attorneys have tried to downplay the relevance of the actor's faith to the trial, all three accusers were active members of Scientology at the time of the alleged assaults and said the insular organization worked to protect Masterson.
Church of Scientology in the spotlight
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller displayed images of the church's massive Sunset Boulevard property and its celebrity center in Hollywood during his opening statement Monday, while detailing Scientology doctrines that bar members from reporting one another to law enforcement.
"If you're a member of the Church of Scientology and you have an issue like this that's come up with another member of the church who is in good standing of the church, you are not permitted to go to law enforcement and report," Mueller said. "You cannot do it. There are consequences for that."
Several women sought permission from church officials to report Masterson, according to Mueller, but were constantly rebuffed.
The church has denied that it has doctrines limiting when members can contact police. Former members have said the church generally abhors outside interference from any government organization, including law enforcement.
After a 2021 preliminary hearing in Masterson's case, the judge concluded that Scientology has "an expressly written doctrine" that "not only discourages, but prohibits" its members from reporting one another to law enforcement.
Scientology has disputed those conclusions.
Cover photo: Instagram/dannymasterson