Actor Danny Masterson sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for rape

Actor Danny Masterson, who starred in That 70s Show, was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison on Thursday for the rapes of two women two decades ago.

Los Angeles superior court judge Charlaine F Olmedo handed down the sentence to Masterson, 47, after hearing statements from the women about the trauma and suffering they experienced.

The sentencing comes after a jury found Masterson guilty of two counts of rape in May. The trial, in which the Church of Scientology repeatedly took center 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.

On Thursday, Masterson sat in a Los Angeles courtroom wearing a suit. The actor, who has been in custody since May, watched the women without visible reaction as they spoke.

“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 the Fox network 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.

The case went to trial last year with Masterson facing three counts of rape, but an initial jury failed to reach a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. Prosecutors retried Masterson on all three counts earlier this year.

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 judge sentenced the actor after rejecting a defense motion for a new trial. The defense sought to have sentences for the two convictions run simultaneously and asked for a sentence of 15 years to life. The prosecution asked for the full 30-years-to-life sentence Masterson was eligible for.

“It’s his life that will be impacted by what you decide today,” Masterson’s lawyer Shawn Holley told the judge before the sentencing. “And the life of his nine-year-old daughter, who means the world to him, and to whom he means the world.”

Holley argued that Masterson has “lived an exemplary life”.

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Prosecutors alleged that Masterson used his prominence in the Church of Scientology – of which all three women were also members at the time – to avoid consequences for decades after the attacks.

Two of his accusers, former members themselves, say the church 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.

Masterson did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses. The defense argued that the acts were consensual and attempted to discredit the women’s stories by highlighting changes and inconsistencies over time, which they said showed signs of coordination between them. He maintains his innocence and his attorneys plan to appeal.

In a statement after the sentencing, the Los Angeles district attorney, George Gascón, said that “justice was finally served”.

“My hope is that this sentence will somehow bring them peace and that their bravery will be an example to others,” he said. “One of my top priorities is to ensure that Los Angeles will no longer be a hunting ground for Hollywood elite who feel entitled to prey on women.”

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