Masterson, best known for starring on the hit Fox sitcom “That 70’s Show” and in Netflix’s “The Ranch,” was facing a potential sentence of 30 years to life in prison.
The actor, who maintains his innocence, was convicted on two of three forcible rape charges this past May. Masterson was accused of raping three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003, which was during the time he was on “That 70’s Show.” The jury convicted him of raping two women in 2003, but could not reach a verdict on an allegation from November 2001 involving a former girlfriend, though the jurors voted in favor of conviction.
At the sentencing, the three women in the case told the judge that Masterson’s crimes had ruined their lives, and asked the judge to give Masterson life behind bars. Jane Doe 1 called the actor “a true coward and heartless monster.” Jane Doe 2 said to Masterson across the courtroom, “I still have to contend with what you did to me that night… That takes a life’s worth of therapy to repair. Every time I think I’m okay, that rape comes back to me.” Jane Doe 3 told the judge that she has been diagnosed with PTSD.
Masterson, who was dressed in a suit and had slicked-back hair with a full-grown beard, did not speak at his sentencing.
Many of Masterson’s Hollywood family members were in court on Thursday morning to support him at his sentencing. His wife, the actor and model Bijou Phillips, was crying at the courthouse. His siblings, “The Walking Dead” actor Alanna Masterson, “Malcolm In the Middle” star Christopher Masterson and actor Jordan Masterson, were all seated in the courtroom together.
“Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here. Your actions 20 years ago took away another person’s voice and choice. Your actions 20 years ago were criminal, and that is why you are here,” Judge Charlaine Olmedo said, as she sentenced Masterson on Thursday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. The judge sentenced Masterson for 15 years to life on each of the two charges, ordering Masterson to serve both terms consecutively.
The trial that ended with a conviction in May 2023 marked Masterson’s second trial for the same charges.
The first trial ended in November 2022 with a hung jury, but the judge opted to re-try the case in front of a new set of jurors. The major difference between the two trials related to the allegation of drugging. In the first trial, the women testified that they felt weak or woozy and had little memory after taking a drink prepared by Masterson, but the prosecution did not outright say that Masterson had drugged the women. In the retrial, prosecutors argued that Masterson had in fact drugged them.
Both trials shined a light on the Church of Scientology, and the verdict marked a stunning downfall for one of Scientology’s most prominent celebrity members. Masterson is a lifelong member and all three victims were Scientologists at the time of their assaults, but have since left the church.
At the sentencing, Leah Remini — a former Scientologist, who is Hollywood’s most prominent critic of the church — was seated in the front row of the gallery to support the women. After Masterson was sentenced, Remini released a statement on social media, largely about Scientology: “Sitting in court today with the women who survived Danny Masterson’s predation was a surreal experience,” she tweeted. “I am relieved that this dangerous rapist will be off the streets and unable to violently assault and rape women with the help of Scientology, a multi-billion-dollar criminal organization with tax-exempt status.”
The three Jane Does said — both at the sentencing and in testimony — that the church dissuaded them from reporting Masterson to the police. Prosecutors argued throughout the trial that Masterson had taken advantage of his position in the church to rape women without fear of repercussion, and that the church forbid women from going to the police to report sexual assault.
Jane Doe 2 told the judge on Thursday that she had been a “brainwashed member” of Scientology at the time of her assault, and alleged that the church had made “concerted efforts” to cover up Masterson’s behavior. Since coming forward with her allegations, she claimed she has “had my privacy invaded almost daily by the cult of Scientology.”
Jane Doe 1, a second-generation Scientologist who was born into the church, said during her victim impact statement that she followed “policy” when she was a member not to report her alleged rape to outside authorities. “There are consequences,” she said. “It was the only community I knew my whole life until I was raped by Mr. Masterson… Danny was a celebrity and therefore, heavily protected by Scientology.” She said that after she went to the LAPD, she was “deemed an enemy of the group” and “lost the ability to be in contact with every person I’d known or loved,” and seriously considered suicide.
Masterson’s attorneys tried to downplay the role of Scientology throughout both trials. His attorneys stressed to the jury that they cannot be biased against any religion, telling jurors during trial, “Scientology is not a defendant” and that “Scientology is not an element of this case.”
Masterson’s defense, led by attorneys Phillip Cohen and Shawn Holley, asked the judge for a 15-year sentence. Holley told the judge she did not intend to “minimize the conduct” of her client, but asked the court to consider her client’s “exemplary life,” noting his community service, work ethic and being an “extraordinary father” to his 9-year-old daughter who “means the world to him.”
The prosecution was lead by Los Angeles deputy district attorneys Reinhold Mueller and Ariel Anson, who asked for 30 years to life. Mueller said that whether Masterson is good father “does not preclude one from becoming a violent, serial rapist” and called his crimes “targeted” and “heinous,” telling the judge that he conducted his actions while women were “incapacitated,” after “drugging” them.
“These are multiple victims over time on different occasions,” Mueller told the judge, in asking for the harshest sentence. “After [he] raped the first, he had time to think about what he had done to that human being…and despite that, he went ahead and committed again. And committed again.”
After the sentencing, Masterson’s attorney told reporters outside the courthouse that he plans to appeal his conviction.
“The errors which occurred in this case are substantial, and unfortunately led to verdicts which are not supported by evidence,” Holley said to the media.
Alison Anderson, the attorney representing Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3, praised her clients in a statement to Variety, identifying them by their first names: “Niesha and Chrissie have displayed tremendous strength and bravery, by coming forward to law enforcement and participating directly in two grueling criminal trials. Despite persistent harassment, obstruction and intimidation, these courageous women helped hold a ruthless sexual predator accountable today, and they are not stopping there. They are eager to soon tell the fuller story of how Scientology and its enablers tried desperately to keep them from coming forward.”
Shortly before Masterson was sentenced, one of the women said she forgives the actor, but believes he deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life.
“I don’t have to carry around your shame around with me. Now, you have to carry it. You have to sit in a cell and carry it,” Jane Doe 2 said in the courtroom. “Your emptiness and your cowardice will be your true legacy. You are pathetic, disturbed and extremely violent. The world is safer with you behind bars.”
From Variety US