Testimony in the criminal rape trial of Danny Masterson has concluded, as prosecutors rested their case Monday and lawyers for the “That ’70s Show” star indicated they would not call any witnesses. Closing arguments were set to begin Tuesday.
Four women – including an unexpected 11th-hour witness whose allegations are not among the charges but echoed that of the previous three – all testified over the past few weeks that Masterson raped them at his Los Angeles home after they began mysteriously drifting in and out of consciousness. The witnesses, including a former longtime girlfriend of Masterson’s, said the attacks happened between 1998 and 2003.
Masterson was not necessarily expected to testify on his own behalf, though it comes as some surprise that his lawyer, Phillip Cohen, will not present any defense. Cohen struggled to gain traction cross-examining witness, often showing frustration and repeatedly calling for a mistrial.
With the trial nearing a conclusion, one of the jurors dropped out Monday for a positive COVID-19 test. It wasn’t clear whether the juror was a man or a woman, or who the alternate would be; before the unexpected turn, the jury stood at six men and six women.
Masterson was formally charged in 2020, but allegations first came to light in March 2017, more than six months before the New York Times’ bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein. A blogger covering Scientology was first to report that Los Angeles Police Department detectives were investigating Masterson after three women came forward with accusations of rape and assault.
That blogger, Tony Ortega, has been attending the trial daily and was called before the bench for a discussion Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear what the judge wanted to chat about, but the Church of Scientology has loomed large in testimony, with three of the four Jane Does testifying that they met Masterson through the church, telling the jurors that its leaders consistently tried to suppress the allegations against one of its most prominent members.
Scientology has denied any involvement in the cases, saying only that its members are expected to comply with all laws.
Despite the lack of defense witnesses, what was originally expected to be a speedy two-week trial dragged on for more than a month. Witnesses broke down on the stand on multiple occasions, as Masterson, his wife of 11 years Bijou Phillips, and other family and supporters looked on.
In 2019, the three women whose allegations were charged filed a separate civl lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, saying they were stalked and harassed after coming forward. In response to that lawsuit, Masterson told TheWrap through his attorney that he intends to beat the charges, then go on offense against his accusers.
He may never get that chance. If convicted, Masterson faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison in a trial that could last up to a month.