A California judge on Friday ruled that Danny Masterson, the actor made famous by the TV series That ’70s Show, will face trial on three counts of rape involving accusations from three women in the years 2001 and 2003.
After a four-day preliminary hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo said the accusers provided enough evidence to force Masterson to face a jury. The burden of proof at a preliminary hearing is only that of probable cause: in other words, that it is probable that a crime was committed and that it is probable that the defendant is the person who committed it. The burden of proof at a trial is much higher. There, the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Associated Press reported that “dozen” of other “investigations by police and the Los Angeles district attorney” mostly “ended without charges” being filed against Masterson.
Masterson has denied the accusations. Thomas Mesereau, one of Masterson’s attorneys and a lawyer known for representing Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson, acknowledged that sex took place but said it was consensual, the AP reported.
The first of the three accusers to testify at the hearing said Masterson “drugged and raped” her eighteen years ago, People magazine reported.
Another AP report said the first accuser testified that she became ill about half an hour after drinking a vodka Masterson had provided. She said a friend tried to help her to her feet but that she couldn’t see or stand. Masterson, she testified, carried her upstairs and put her into a shower. She blacked out but awoke to find Masterson putting soap on her bare breasts, the AP said. The witness said she was in and out of consciousness but that Masterson carried her to a bed and raped her. She said at one point he pulled a gun from a dresser and threatened her.
The second accuser testified that Masterson raped her in their shared home after a five-year relationship.
“I tried pushing him off me and saying no I don’t want to have sex with you,” the woman testified, per another People magazine report. “He wouldn’t stop. So I did something that I knew would make him angry and likely to get off me. I pulled his hair. He has these rules, ‘no touch hair rule,’ ‘no touch face rule.’ He had this thing about his hair, so I knew if I pulled it really, really hard, he would get off me. But what he did was he hit me.”
Yet another Associated Press report quoted the woman as saying Masterson hit her across the face, spit on her, and called her “white trash.”
During the preliminary hearing, Mesereau attacked what he considered to be omissions and inconsistencies in the accusers’ stories over the years. Mesereau also suggested that the prosecution was targeting Masterson because of his adherence to Scientology. The accusers are all former Scientologists, the AP noted; Judge Olmedo found that “church teachings kept them from reporting their accusations to police for years,” the wire service said.
Another of Masterson’s defense attorneys, Sharon Appelbaum, said the three accusers “had colluded to form a ‘sisterhood’ that ‘seems to want to take down Mr. Masterson and take down Scientology,'” the AP said.
Prosecutors rebuffed the suggestion.
Masterson’s accusers are also suing the Church of Scientology over the way it allegedly handled their complaints about Masterson. The organization has denied any wrongdoing.
Masterson, who is free on bail, will be back in court June 7. If convicted, he could face a sentence of 45 years to life.
Three days ago, Masterson snapped a photo and posted it on Instagram outside of the “Court House.”
“Had the most beautiful Uber driver drop me off at school today. #uberwife #bijouphillips,” he said.
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[image via Lucy Nicholson/pool/Getty Images]
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