Judge denies motion to dismiss rape charges against actor Danny Masterson
LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles Superior Court judge refused Monday to dismiss charges against actor Danny Masterson, who is accused of raping three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003.
Judge Eleanor J. Hunter denied the defense's motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations, leaving Masterson facing three counts of forcible rape that could result in a sentence of up to 45 years to life in state prison if he's convicted as charged.
The 44-year-old actor -- known for appearing on "That '70s Show" and "The Ranch" -- appeared in a downtown courtroom in a mask, as is now required for entry to the courthouse due to the coronavirus pandemic. He's out of custody on $3.3 million bail and is due back in court on Nov. 2 for arraignment.
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Masterson was arrested June 17 by the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery-Homicide Division and released about three hours later on a $3.3 million bond.
Shortly after the charges were announced, Masterson's attorney, Tom Mesereau, released a statement saying his client "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."
"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," Mesereau said then. "The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false."
The criminal complaint alleges that Masterson raped a 23-year-old woman between January 2001 and December 2001.
He is also charged with raping a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 and a 23-year-old woman he had invited to his home some time between October and December 2003, according to Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller.
The District Attorney's Office declined to file sexual assault charges against him in two other alleged incidents, citing insufficient evidence on one and the statute of limitations on the other.
In December 2017, Netflix announced that Masterson had been fired from the Emmy-winning scripted comedy "The Ranch" amid sexual assault allegations.
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The actor said then that he was "very disappointed" and "it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused." He also "denied the outrageous allegations" and said he looked forward to "clearing my name once and for all."
A civil suit was filed in August 2019 against Masterson and the Church of Scientology by four women who allege they were stalked and harassed after filing sexual assault allegations against the actor with Los Angeles police.
Plaintiffs Chrissie Carnell Bixler, Bobette Riales and two Jane Does sued the church, its leader, David Miscavige, and Masterson, a Scientology church member identified in the suit as the ex-boyfriend of all the plaintiffs. The women allege that strangers turned up around their homes, sometimes looking inside with flashlights. They also maintain their email accounts were compromised and that their credit cards were stolen.
They additionally allege that they were followed by other cars while driving and that one of them was forced off the road. They all say their car doors and trunks were mysteriously left wide open.
On Oct. 6, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven Kleifield found that, as to Masterson, there were not enough facts to support the plaintiffs' allegations of physical and constructive evasion of privacy, but said there were enough details for now to back their claims of stalking and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He gave the plaintiffs 20 days to file an amended complaint.
The judge did not rule on a request by Masterson's attorney, Andrew Brettler, to require the two Jane Does to be forced to use their given names in future court papers, saying the request would have to be brought in a different motion.
"This case is about alleged harassment and stalking," Brettler wrote in his court papers. "It is not about sexual assault, as plaintiffs would like the court and the media to believe."
In a sworn declaration, Bixler alleges Masterson repeatedly abused her.
"I was sexually assaulted by Danny Masterson numerous times between approximately 1997-2002," Bixler claims.
She said she reported the alleged assaults to the church and that in 2002, she "fled" from the emotional, physical and verbal abuse she allegedly suffered while in a relationship with Masterson. She also said she remained in the church for a while, but did not regularly receive religious services.
One of the Jane Does alleges in a separate declaration that she was sexually assaulted by Masterson in 2002-03 and that the church ordered her into an "ethics program" after she complained of the actor's abuses.
The second Jane Doe alleges in her own declaration that Masterson sexually abused her in 2003-04 and that she told the actor's former personal assistant what happened, not knowing that the aide was still friends with Masterson. Soon thereafter, other Scientologists "began to disconnect from me on social media," she said.