LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday after jurors said they were hopelessly stranded during the trial of “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Mastersonwho was accused of three rapes.
Los Angeles Supreme Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo had ordered jurors to take Thanksgiving week off and continue to deliberate after telling her on Nov. 18 that after a month-long trial in which the Church of Scientology played a supporting role .
Masterson, 46, was charged with the rape of three women, including an ex-girlfriend, at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. He pleaded not guilty and his attorney said the acts were all consensual. All three women were members of the Church at the time, and Masterson is still one.
“I think the jurors are hopelessly deadlocked,” said Judge Charlaine Olmedo after asking if there was anything the court could do to bring them closer to a unanimous decision. She set a March date for a new trial.
Jurors said they voted seven times on Tuesday and Wednesday without agreeing on any of the three counts.
The jury presiding judge said only two jurors voted for conviction on the first count, four voted for conviction on the second count, and five voted for conviction on the third count.
Jurors were forced to start deliberations from scratch on Monday when two had to be laid off due to COVID-19. They deliberated for two days, but still failed to reach a verdict.
The result was a serious setback for prosecutors and for the three women who said they had been seeking justice for a long time.
The proceedings came amid a flurry of cases on both coasts with #MeToo connotations, including the Los Angeles trial of Harvey Weinstein down the hall from Masterson’s. In New York, Kevin Spacey won a sexual misconduct lawsuit lawsuit filed by actor Anthony Rapp in New York, and a jury ordered director and screenwriter Paul Haggis to pay $10 million in a civil case there.
But in the Masterson trial, as in the Haggis trial, the #MeToo implications were largely overshadowed by the specter of Scientology, despite the judge’s insistence that the church would not become a de facto defendant.
The women, all named Jane Does and all former members of the church, said they were harassed, harassed and stalked after Masterson was charged. They have repeated those allegations in a pending lawsuit against the church.
Masterson attorney Philip Cohen said the church was mentioned 700 times during the trial and argued it became an excuse for the prosecution’s failure to build a credible case against Masterson, a prominent Scientologist.
But Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said the church had tried to silence the women and that’s why it took 20 years for the case to go to trial.
Masterson did not testify. His attorney did not testify for the defense and instead focused on inconsistencies in the accounts of the three accusers, who he said changed their stories over time and talked to each other before going to the police .
“The key to this case is not when they reported it,” Cohen said during closing arguments. That’s what they said when they reported it. What they said after they reported it. And what they said during the trial.’
Mueller argued that Masterson was a man “to whom ‘no’ never meant ‘no'”, as evidenced by the graphic and emotional testimony of the three accusers.
Two women said they received drinks from Masterson and became dizzy or passed out before being violently raped. One of them said she thought she was going to die when Masterson held a pillow over her face.
An ex-girlfriend said she woke up to find Masterson having sex with her without her consent. The defense said her claims were undermined because she later had sex with him after they broke up.
Cohen told jurors they could acquit Masterson if they believed he “really and reasonably believed” the women consented to sex. Mueller countered that no one would believe the acts described were consensual, reminding jurors that a woman told him “no” repeatedly, pulled his hair, and tried to get out from under him.
Mueller told jurors not to be swayed by defense speculation and said contradictions in the victims’ testimonies were signs of authenticity, unlike accounts that were scripted.
The allegations date from a period when Masterson was at the height of his fame, starring from 1998 to 2006 as Steven Hyde on Fox’s “That ’70s Show.” Starring Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Topher Grace, the show is getting an upcoming Netflix reboot with “That ’90s Show.”
Masterson was reunited with Kutcher in the Netflix comedy “The Ranch,” but was written off the show when an LAPD investigation was revealed in December 2017.