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A jury will soon consider the rape charges against "That 70s Show" actor Danny Masterson after his defense rested without calling a single witness.
Closing statements are set to begin on Tuesday in Los Angeles, after a four-week trial on three counts of rape by force or fear, according to NBC News and Deadline. Prosecutors allege that Masterson raped three women — his then-girlfriend, a long-time friend and an acquaintance — at his home between 2001 and 2003, and presented testimony from a fourth woman that he raped her twice at his home in 1996, NBC News reported.
Masterson's defense opted to not call any witnesses in the trial, and Masterson — who entered a not guilty plea to all the charges — told the judge on Monday that he was declining to testify after consulting his lawyer.
The three women whose cases he is charged were members of the Church of Scientology with Masterson at the time, and allege that they were discouraged from reporting the assaults by church members. Masterson remains a member of the religious group, which strongly denies any involvement in the case.
Though the judge in the case has strictly limited testimony about the church, she did allow two of the alleged victims to testify that they'd reported the assaults to their superiors within the organization at the time and that they'd been subject to acts of retaliation by church members after going to the police in 2016 and 2017. The organization also denies any involvement in those alleged retaliatory acts.
The fourth woman, whose testimony had initially been forbidden, was allowed to testify last week after Masterson's attorney accused the three women of colluding in their claims against his client. The judge ruled that the attorney's allegations then opened the door to testimony from the fourth woman, whose accusations mirrored those of the three women in the criminal case, according to NBC News.
She testified that she and Masterson worked on a film in 1996 — two years before "That 70s Show" premiered — and he invited her to a wrap party at his home after. She told the court that she smoked some pot and got a little drunk, passed out and woke up to Masterson assaulting her. She further testified that, when he later invited her back to the house, she took a single sip from a flask he offered, felt extremely intoxicated and then lost consciousness for several hours as he began to assault her again.
The fourth woman did not know the other three women and was never a Scientologist.
Those three women (and the husband of one of the women) are separately suing Masterson and the church over the alleged harassment, the Los Angeles Times reported, claiming in their suit that the organization's agents "surveilled them, hacked their security systems, filmed them, chased them, hacked their email, killed (and attempted to kill) their pets, tapped their phones, incited others to harass them, threatened to kill them, broke their locks, broke into their cars, ran them off the road, posted fake ads purporting to be from them soliciting anal sex from strangers, broke their windows, set the outside of their home on fire, went through their trash, and poisoned trees in their yards." (The church denies the allegations.)
Though a Los Angeles county judge ruled in 2020 that the suit had to proceed to arbitration based on the women having signed arbitration agreements while they were members of the church, Deadline reported, an appeals court ruled in January that, because the alleged harassment occurred after the women left the organization, the arbitration agreement was no longer enforceable.
At the time of Masterson's arrest in 2020, his attorneys said in a statement, "Mr. Masterson is innocent, and we're confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify."
The civil trial may proceed as early as December, after the criminal case against Masterson is decided.
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