‘That 70’s Show’ actor Masterson sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for rapes
LOS ANGELES, Sept 7 (Reuters) - "That '70s Show" actor Danny Masterson was sentenced on Thursday to 30 years to life in prison for raping two women about 20 years ago in a case that stirred controversy around the Church of Scientology.
By Rollo Ross
The 47-year-old actor and prominent Scientologist, who starred in the retro TV comedy for eight seasons until 2006, was convicted in May in a second trial. A jury deadlocked on a charge that he raped a third woman.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo announced the sentence, the maximum allowed by law, in Los Angeles Superior Court. Masterson, who has been in jail since his conviction, will be eligible for parole in 25-1/2 years.
The case drew attention in part because Masterson met the women through the Church of Scientology, and his accusers said the organization discouraged them from contacting law enforcement.
The Church of Scientology denied that claim and said Masterson’s religion should not have been an issue in the case.
The women said Masterson drugged and raped them in separate incidents between 2001 and 2003 at his house in the Hollywood Hills.
Masterson, wearing a dark suit, appeared composed on Thursday as the women gave victim impact statements. He was offered the chance to speak, but declined.
“I forgive you. Your sickness is no longer mine to bear,” said one victim, identified as Jane Doe 2 in the case.
The woman, who was a member of the Church of Scientology when she met Masterson, described the religious organization as an “enabler and protector” for him and said she was “terrorized and harassed” by the church when she tried to speak out about her rape.
“Rape is a theft of the spirit,” she said, adding that she developed PTSD and her promising acting career withered.
LEAH REMINI SUPPORTS VICTIM
The other victim, identified as Jane Doe 1, said her mother is a Scientologist and disowned her after she criticized the group during the trial.
“I didn’t choose to be born in Scientology just like I didn’t choose to be raped,” she said, accusing the organization of seeking to silence and intimidate her in the rape case.
“King of Queens” actor Leah Remini, a former Scientologist and vocal critic of the organization, stood with her arms around Jane Doe 1 as she spoke in the front row of the courtroom.
Masterson’s former girlfriend and “That 70’s Show” co-star Chrissie Carnell-Bixler was also in the court. She accused Masterson of raping her in 2001, but that case ended in a hung jury.
Masterson’s wife, actor Bijou Phillips, and his brother, “Malcolm in the Middle” actor Christopher Masterson, attended the sentencing.
Allegations against Masterson hurt his career. When he was first accused of sexually assaulting multiple women in 2017, he was fired from the Netflix series “The Ranch.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)