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Deadlocked jury leads to mistrial in ‘That ’70s Show’ star’s rape case

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A Los Angeles judge declared a mistrial Wednesday after the jury was deadlocked in the case of “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson, who faces three counts of rape.

Judge Charlaine Olmedo said the jurors were “hopelessly deadlocked” after asking whether there was anything the court could do to move them closer to reaching a unanimous decision, according to the Associated Press. The retrial will be in March.

Masterson, best-known for the role of Steven Hyde in the popular Fox sitcom that ran from 1998 to 2006, was fired from Netflix’s “The Ranch” in 2017, when Los Angeles police began to investigate rape allegations against him. The 46-year-old is a lifelong Scientologist, and all three accusers are former members of the church.

The incidents are said to have taken place between 2001 and 2003.

After deliberating for nearly three days, the jury told Olmedo on Nov. 18 that they were “unable to reach a unanimous decision on any of the counts,” Variety reported. The judge ordered them to return after a week-long break for Thanksgiving to restart deliberations.

After seven votes on Tuesday and Wednesday, jurors said they hadn’t reached consensus on any of the three counts, according to the AP.

Two of the women issued a statement after the mistrial: “We are obviously disappointed that, at least for the time being, Daniel Masterson has evaded criminal accountability for his deplorable acts. … This legal fight is far from over.”

Masterson’s attorney Philip Cohen said in a statement that, “it is a true testament to our justice system that the jurors were able to see through all the inflammatory noise and focus solely on what was truly important.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said in a statement that it was disappointed with the outcome of the trial, but wanted “to give our heartfelt appreciation to the victims for bravely stepping forward and recounting their harrowing experiences.”

The trial began in mid-October.

Reinhold Mueller, a deputy district attorney for the county, said in opening statements that two of the women accusing Masterson of rape — a close friend of his personal assistant and an actress he did not know very well — either became faint or passed out after drinking with him, according to the AP. The third woman was Masterson’s ex-girlfriend, who said he was on top of her when she woke up.

Two of Masterson’s accusers said they went to the church about his behavior and were told it wasn’t rape, the AP reported. The assistant’s friend, who alleged that Masterson threatened her with a gun while raping her, testified that a church official denied her permission to report the actor to police, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Variety reported that Masterson’s ex-girlfriend said she was told by a church official that it was not possible for someone to rape their girlfriend, and that it was her duty to “give him sex whenever he wanted.”

Olmedo insisted that the trial not be dominated by talk of the church and its alleged scare tactics. The L.A. Times reported that after the first witness testified, Olmedo chastised the prosecution for its line of questioning: “I understand these witnesses’ lives may have been completely inundated with Scientology,” Olmedo said. “This trial is not going to be inundated with Scientology.”

In closing arguments, per BuzzFeed News, Mueller pointed to what he saw as a pattern in Masterson’s alleged behavior: “If you were incapacitated in his bed, he would rape you,” Mueller said. “If you were incapacitated elsewhere in the house, he would come and find you. And if you were at his home and you were not yet intoxicated, he would offer you the alcohol to get you there and then forcibly rape you.”

Cohen drew attention to some inconsistencies between details the accusers provided in statements predating the trial and what they said while testifying.

In addition to the criminal case, some of Masterson’s accusers also brought a lawsuit against him and the church, according to the L.A. Times. The newspaper reported that the accusers’ attorney, Brian Kent, previously stated that “the facts of what happened, why certain things happened, who was involved … it’s so interwoven that certain parts of the trial will necessarily have to involve Scientology.”

Masterson will not appear in “That ’90s Show,” the Netflix spinoff to “That ’70s Show,” though he described news of it on Instagram last year as “the dopest thing I’ve heard in a decade.”




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