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Rape Case Against Actor Danny Masterson Will Proceed After Judge Denies Request To Dismiss
The "That 70's Show" actor has been accused of raping three different women between 2001 and 2003.
A judge ruled this week that the rape case against actor Danny Masterson will proceed, despite the defense's objections.
A Los Angeles judge handed down the ruling at a hearing on Monday and rescheduled Masterson's arraignment to Nov. 2, Variety reports.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged Masterson, 44, in June with raping three women on separate occasions. He is alleged to have raped a 23-year-old woman in 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April 2003, and another 23-year-old woman in 2003, between October and December. All of the alleged instances of sexual assault are said to have taken place at the actor's home in the Hollywood Hills.
Masterson's lawyers argued that the case should be thrown out due to the statute of limitations having expired, but the judge on Monday agreed with prosecutors that, in adherence to California's "one strike" law, those convicted of sex crimes involving multiple victims could stand to face a harsher sentence, regardless of when the alleged crimes occurred.
Judge Eleanor Hunter on Monday also denied the defense's request to bar media outlets from being in the courtroom during proceedings, Deadline reports.
Masterson was not present at Monday's hearing, according to Variety. The actor, who is free on $3.3 million bail, is facing three counts of rape by force or fear and stands to be sentenced to a maximum of 45 years to life in prison if convicted.
Masterson has maintained his innocence. Following news of the charges, his lawyer, Tom Mesereau, issued a statement denying the claims against the former "'70s Show" actor, CNN reports.
"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," his statement reads. "Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out. The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false."
Masterson and the Church of Scientology, to which he belongs, are facing a lawsuit from numerous women, including at least one of his accusers; they claim that they were harassed after reporting instances of Masterson sexually assaulting them to the authorities, according to The Hollywood Reporter.