Danny Masterson’s Attorneys Ask for Rape Trial Delay Due to Anti-Scientology Public Sentiments

The The '70s Show actor and alleged rapist's legal team said the L.A. mayoral candidates' comments on the "church" could prohibit fair proceedings.

Danny Masterson’s Attorneys Ask for Rape Trial Delay Due to Anti-Scientology Public Sentiments
Photo:Anna Webber (Getty Images)

It’s been five years since five women accused That ‘70s Show star and longtime Scientologist Danny Masterson of sexual assault. Four of the women—including one of Masterson’s ex-girlfriends—first came forward in March 2017, alleging that Masterson sexually assaulted them in the early 2000s, and months later, a fifth woman—a second former girlfriend of Masterson—alleged that he “repeatedly raped” her. Masterson, who received three felony charges for “forcible rape” in 2020, has plead not guilty and vehemently denied all allegations, but three of the women will finally receive their day in court next week on October 11. If convicted, Masterson faces a maximum of 45 years to life in prison.

A series of delays have prolonged the criminal trial. The latest saw Masterson’s attorneys arguing that the Los Angeles mayoral race—namely, candidates Rick Caruso and Karen Bass’s public condemnations of Scientology—would be “inflammatory” to the trial and impact its outcome. On Monday, Philip Cohen, one of Masterson’s attorneys, asked Judge Charlaine Olmedo to, once again, postpone the trial until after the November 8 election. Cohen then went so far as to discourage Olmedo from mentioning Scientology at all during the trial. “The word ‘Scientology’ never needs to come up,” he said. “If something needs to come up, it can be called ‘the church,’ ‘the organization,’ ‘a club.’”

As of now, a decision regarding rescheduling the trial date has not been announced, but the timing of Masterson’s attorney’s request is exceptionally noteworthy considering that, on the same day, the United States Supreme Court denied the church’s petition for a writ of certiorari—a request that SCOTUS review a case from a lower court—in a separate civil suit filed against Masterson, the church, and its leader, David Miscavige. Deadline deemed the church’s petition a “Hail Mary attempt” to settle the allegations outside of the legal system. In the suit, four women—including Masterson’s ex-girlfriends, Chrissie Carnell Bixler and Marie Bobette Riales, and two of the Jane Does from Masterson’s criminal trial—claim that after coming forward about the alleged sexual assaults, the “church” began a harassment campaign that included stalking, intimidation, and even poisoning one victim’s dogs.

“When those women came forward to report Masterson’s crimes, the Defendants conspired to and systematically stalked, harassed, invaded their and their family’s privacy, and intentionally caused them emotional distress to silence and intimidate them,” an attorney for the women alleged in the lawsuit.

Neither Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, nor a spokesperson for the church has responded to Jezebel’s request for comment.

At the time the sexual assault allegations were first made public in 2017, the LAPD confirmed that they were investigating the claims, though charges had yet to be filed. The disturbing accounts were also published by journalist Tony Ortega via his blog, The Underground Bunker. Leah Remini, who reportedly played a significant role in supporting the alleged victims early on in the case, said Jane Doe 1—one of the women behind the suit—was willing to come forward only after she saw Remini’s explosive A&E series, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. The actress and former Scientologist encouraged the woman, who says she was vaginally and anally raped by Masterson while she was unconscious in 2001, to file a police report. In a May 2021 preliminary hearing, Doe 1 claimed Masterson threatened her with a gun during the assault: “Don’t fucking move…Don’t say a word.” Doe 1 did not contact police immediately after the assault, as she claimed she was threatened by Scientology officials when she confided in them about what happened.

“They threatened me that if I ever told anyone or reported him to the police that I would be declared a ‘suppressive person’ and lose everything and everyone,” she wrote in a message to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. “Then they put me on a massive ethics program as punishment. My rapist was not punished at all. They didn’t even call him to talk about it. I ended up breaking up with him two months later.”

When she eventually filed a report in 2017, the LAPD soon added two additional women to the investigation. A second Jane Doe had already contacted law enforcement in 2004 after she was allegedly raped by Masterson one year earlier, but the investigation was closed after the police received an onslaught of contradicting reports from the church. According to the LAPD police report of Jane Doe 2’s assault: “SUSP (acquaintance) sexually assaulted the victim while she was passed out. The victim woke up while the suspect was having sex with her and struggled with him. The suspect choked the victim until she passed out.” A witness at the party wherein the assault took place confirmed that Doe 2 was “freaking out” afterward but it seemed the rest of the party—comprised entirely of fellow Scientologists—sought to create the illusion that nothing nefarious had taken place: “People were saying no, Danny didn’t do anything, she’s fine. She’s just had too much to drink.”

Via Remini’s series, Bixler, who dated Masterson from 1996 to 2001, and Riales, who dated him in 2002, alleged that he drugged and assaulted them while they were unconscious. During their relationship, Bixler claimed she alerted an ethics officer at the church but was told that because she and Masterson were a couple, what happened to her was not rape. She claimed she later confided in a church chaplain who didn’t offer anything more than the same apathy. “My job as his girlfriend was to give myself to him whenever he wanted,” Bixler said on the series. “I was to lay there and take it.” Shortly after she came forward, Bixler’s husband blamed the church for poisoning their two dogs, claiming they’d died after he found rat poison rolled up in raw meat in their front and back yards.

Currently, it appears the criminal trial will proceed in Los Angeles Superior Court on October 11.

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