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'That '70s Show' actor Masterson found guilty of rape

01 June 2023, MVT 16:32
Actor Danny Masterson is arraigned on three rape charges in separate incidents between 2001 and 2003, at Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 18, 2020. -- Photo: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
01 June 2023, MVT 16:32

US actor and Scientologist Danny Masterson on Wednesday was found guilty of raping two women at his home in the Hollywood Hills.

The star of television's "That '70s Show" and "The Ranch" was convicted of two counts of forcible rape between 2001 and 2003, while jurors at a Los Angeles courthouse said they were deadlocked on a third rape charge.

It was the second rape trial for Masterson, after previous proceedings were declared a mistrial last November when a different jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision.

Masterson was taken into custody following the verdict and is awaiting sentencing. He could face 30 years to life in prison.

The actor, now 47, rose to fame with the 1998 launch of retro sitcom "That '70s Show," where he played the character of Steven Hyde alongside fellow stars Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher.

He co-starred again with Kutcher on Netflix's "The Ranch," but was fired in 2017 and written off the show after Los Angeles police confirmed they were investigating multiple rape allegations against the actor.

Prosecutors at the time dropped two further sexual assault cases against Masterson over lack of evidence and the statute of limitations passing.

During closing arguments earlier this month, prosecutors said Masterson "drugged and raped each one of these victims" and called on the jury to hold him "accountable for what he has done."

The three alleged victims were also members of the Church of Scientology at the time, and Masterson met them through the secretive group. Two of them said church officials had discouraged them from contacting law enforcement.

Masterson's lawyers in his closing argument questioned why the court had heard "so much about Scientology," and the defense has suggested that bias against the Church could have been a motivating factor.

In a statement, the Church of Scientology said the "prosecution's introduction of religion into this trial was an unprecedented violation of the First Amendment and affects the due process rights of every American. The Church was not a party to this case and religion did not belong in this proceeding."

It denied harassing the accusers and said it has no policy of "prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct."

The jury deliberated for around seven days.

No verdict was reached on the third rape charge, which involved Masterson's former girlfriend.

© Agence France-Presse

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