LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis wrote letters to a judge indicating they considered fellow "That '70s Show" actor Danny Masterson a "role model" before he was sentenced Thursday to 30 years to life in state prison for raping two women at his Hollywood Hills home about two decades ago.
Kutcher wrote in a letter to Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo that he was 20 when he met Masterson in 1998 and "he instantly became a friend, dedicated co-worker, and role model to me. And has remained as such for 25 years."
Kutcher wrote in the letter that Masterson is "an extraordinarily honest and intentional human being," that the two spent hundreds of hours working together and "set an extraordinary standard around how you treat other people."
He wrote that he and Masterson -- the father of a 9-year-old daughter with actress-wife Bijou Phillips Masterson -- "have spent countless hours together with our kids and he is among few people that I would trust to be alone with my son and daughter."
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"While I'm aware that the judgement (sic) has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and fear and the victims have a great desire for justice. I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing. I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society and having his daughter raised without a present father would (be) a tertiary injustice in and of itself."
Kutcher and his wife, Kunis, who also appeared on "That '70s Show" with Masterson between 1998 and 2006, each credited Masterson for his commitment to his wife and daughter and for discouraging the use of drugs.
In her letter to the judge, Kunis wrote that she "could sense his innate goodness and genuine nature" from the very beginning after meeting him and that he has "proven to be an amazing friend, confidant, and, above all, an outstanding older brother figure to me."
"... His genuine concern for those around him and his commitment to leading by example make him an outstanding role model and friend," Kunis wrote in her letter. "... I wholeheartedly vouch for Danny Masterson's exceptional character and the tremendous positive influence he has had on me and the people around him. His dedication to leading a drug-free life and the genuine care he extends to others make him an outstanding role model and friend."
Also writing letters in support of Masterson were fellow "That '70s Show" co-stars Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith.
"I am aware that Danny is convicted of 2 counts of forcible rape and, though it is so hard for me to wrap my head around this, I respect the law and the court. I always have," Rupp wrote, adding that Masterson was "well liked and very respected."
Smith, who also worked with Masterson on the Emmy-winning scripted comedy "The Ranch" before Masterson was fired amid the sexual assault allegations, wrote that Masterson "has been a leader and positive force among his peers" and that he considered Masterson to be a "good friend."
Masterson's wife noted in her letter to the judge that he "devoted himself to finding other ways to earn a living" after he lost his acting career, moving the family to a farm in Santa Ynez, where he "immediately began to work the land and grow a beautiful vineyard with 6,000 vines, that he tended on his own for six years."
Bijou Phillips Masterson wrote that she knows that he has been "convicted of serious crimes," and that she and their daughter -- whom he calls every day from jail -- are "heartbroken that he is not home with us."
Masterson's parents and three siblings also wrote character letters on his behalf, with his mother calling him a mentor and role model to his younger siblings. His brother, Christopher, wrote that what he heard during the trial is not reflective of what he knows of his brother.
In his letter to the judge, actor Giovanni Ribisi wrote that he was 9 years old when he met Masterson and has "always known Danny to be an ethical, honest person, who lived with the highest standards in work and family."
"I know Danny has been convicted of two counts of forcible rape. I only ask that you consider his daughter in his sentencing. He is a good father and he is important to her and her upbringing," Ribisi wrote.
Masterson's brother-in-law, actor Billy Baldwin, wrote that he has worked in the entertainment industry for 35 years and "can say unequivocally that I have never known anyone that is more beloved than Danny Masterson," adding that Masterson has "always quietly been there for his family, friends, community, and even strangers with support, words of wisdom, or sage advice about life, career, relationships, and most importantly, family and parenting. All of it without seeking any recognition or praise."
During Masterson's sentencing hearing Thursday, the judge noted that she had received a number of letters on behalf of Masterson and had read all of them.
The judge told the 47-year-old actor shortly before imposing the sentence that she knew that he is "sitting here steadfastly on your claims of innocence."
"Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here," the judge said, telling him that his actions had taken away another person's voice and choice and that the victims each reported the rapes to someone shortly afterward.
She called Masterson's actions "criminal," and subsequently called him back into court to order him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life upon his release from state prison.
Masterson's defense team had asked in a sentencing memorandum for the 15-year-to-life terms on each of the charges to be served at the same time, noting that he still wouldn't be eligible for parole until he is 62 and his daughter is in her mid-20s. They noted that the counts on which he was convicted occurred within six to eight months of each other when Masterson was in mid-20s.
One of Masterson's attorneys, Philip Kent Cohen, told the judge that a 15-year-to-life sentence wouldn't necessarily mean that his client would ever be released from prison, saying it would be up to a parole board to make that determination.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller countered that a 15-year-to- life sentence was "not fair and just."
He said a 30-year-to-life sentence would be the "fair and just" sentence, saying that "this defendant needs to be held accountable."
Masterson was convicted May 31 of two counts of rape by force or fear. He was taken into custody after the verdict was read and has remained behind bars since then.
The jury deadlocked on another rape charge involving a third alleged victim, who was a former longtime girlfriend of Masterson. Prosecutors announced in July that they would not retry the actor on that charge, and it was dismissed July 11.
The jury was the second to hear the case against Masterson, who was charged in 2020 with three counts of rape by force or fear involving the three women on separate occasions.
During the first trial last year, jurors leaned in favor of acquittal on all three counts -- voting 10-2 on one count, 8-4 on another and 7-5 on the third -- but they were unable to reach a unanimous decision, leading to a mistrial being declared last November.
The judge on Thursday heard emotional victim impact statements from all three women, who described long-standing effects of the trauma they have said they experienced.
"You relish in hurting women," one of the women, identified in court as "Jane Doe 2," said in directly addressing Masterson. "You lived your life behind a mask as two people. But the real one sits here ..."
She said the world is "safer" with Masterson behind bars and believes that it never dawned on him that he would be "held accountable."
"I forgive you," she told the actor, saying that his "sickness" is no longer her burden.
The other victim, identified as "Jane Doe 1," said she wished that she had "reported him sooner" to Los Angeles police.
"I knew he belonged behind bars," she told the judge.
In a statement read by Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson, Masterson's ex-girlfriend wrote that she entered the relationship as an "extremely naive" and "trusting" 18-year-old.
Actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who left the religion in 2013 and is now a frequent critic of the church, sat with the victims in the front row of the downtown Los Angeles courtroom during the sentencing.
She posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that sitting in court with "the women who survived Danny Masterson's predation was a surreal experience."
"For over two decades, Danny Masterson avoided accountability for his crimes," she wrote.
In his closing argument of the retrial, Mueller told the jury, "This defendant drugged and raped each one of these victims. ... It is time to hold Mr. Masterson accountable for what he has done."
Mueller said the three women were -- like Masterson -- members of the Church of Scientology, and told jurors that the church retaliated against them.
"What happened after they were drugged -- they were raped by this man over here," the prosecutor said, pointing across the courtroom at Masterson. "... You have an opportunity to show there is justice. It does exist."
Cohen urged jurors during his closing argument to acquit his client, questioning the credibility of the women.
The defense attorney also questioned why the panel had heard "so much about Scientology," asking jurors if there could be problems with the government's case against Masterson.
Masterson's lawyer said he was not alleging that there was some "grand conspiracy" against his client, but told jurors the alleged victims had spoken with each other despite an LAPD detective's admonition and that their accounts have been tweaked throughout the years.
He said there was no forensic evidence to support the prosecution's contention that the alleged victims' drinks had been drugged by Masterson.
Outside the jury's presence during the trial, the judge rejected Cohen's requests for either a mistrial, another chance to argue before the jury or a special jury instruction as a result of the prosecution's repeated references to the women allegedly being drugged.
The Church of Scientology issued a statement criticizing the prosecution's characterizations of the church's actions.
"The church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone, Scientologists or not, to law enforcement," according to the statement. "Quite the opposite, church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land. All allegations to the contrary are totally false."
A civil suit filed in August 2019 against Masterson and the Church of Scientology by the three women involved in the criminal case and one woman who was not a member of the church alleges they were stalked and harassed after reporting sexual assault allegations against the actor to Los Angeles police.
Regarding the lawsuit, the Church of Scientology issued a statement saying, "The church denies the allegations of harassment as obvious, cynical and self-serving fictions, and the church knows it will be vindicated."
Outside court after the sentencing, Mueller said he was "extremely proud" of the women for coming forward and is "happy that they got their justice."
In a statement she read outside court after the sentencing, defense attorney Shawn Holley said a team of appellate lawyers has been reviewing transcripts from the trial and has identified "a number of significant evidentiary and constitutional issues which they will address in briefs to both state and federal appellate courts."
"Mr. Masterson did not commit the crimes for which he has been convicted and we and the appellate lawyers -- the best and the brightest in the country -- are confident that these convictions will be overturned," Holley said.
Masterson said in 2017 that he "denied the outrageous allegations" and said he looked forward to "clearing my name once and for all." He opted against making a statement before being sentenced.