A prosecutor has described allegations of rape by three women against “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson two decades ago.
In his opening statement at Masterson’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said the two women became dizzy or passed out after a few drinks and were placed in his hot tub.
Los Angeles Superior Court heard one of the women said Masterson pulled her into his bed, where she passed out and saw him having sex with her.
A third woman said she woke up to find him on top of her.
Masterson’s attorney said the reason the charges have so much in common is because the alleged victims violated a detective’s warning not to talk to each other and “cross-pollinated” their accounts and undermined their credibility.
Defense lawyer Philip Cohen told the court: “If you talk to each other, you will taint this case.
“Talking to each other and other witnesses is fatal to the case.”
Masterson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated rape between 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood home, which acted as a social center when he was at the height of his fame.
Mr. Cohen urged jurors not to consider Masterson’s affiliation with the Church of Scientology and its relationship to the case, and Mr. Mueller said that helped explain why the women – all former members of the church – waited so long to report the incidents.
Two of the alleged victims first went to church to report what had happened to them and were told that it was not rape and that reporting it to the authorities or telling others would result in them being ostracized by their loved ones friends and even family members.
“You essentially become the enemy of the church,” Mr. Mueller said. “You will lose everything.”
Mr. Cohen said the case had nothing to do with religion, and he repeatedly objected when it was touched on.
Superior Court Judge Charlene F. Olmedo sternly reminded the lawyers that Scientology would not dominate the trial.
The witness list at trial is full of members and former members of the church, which has a strong presence in Los Angeles and counts many high-profile figures among its members.
The list includes former contestant Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley and ex-wife of Michael Jackson, a friend of one of the alleged victims.
The two women got in touch and shared their stories and filed a police report in 2016. Another woman went to the police in 2017 after telling her story to her husband, who helped her realize she had been raped.
Mr Cohen said the crux of Masterson’s defense was the “hiss of inconsistencies” between what the women initially said and how their accounts changed over time.
If convicted, Masterson could face up to 45 years in prison.
From 1998 to 2006, Masterson starred as Stephen Hyde on Fox’s That ’70s Show, starring Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Topher Grace, as well as the Netflix reboot of That ’90s Show.
Masterson reunited with Kutcher on the Netflix comedy The Ranch, but was fired from the show when the LAPD investigation came to light in December 2017.