Feb 22, 2023
Prosecutors in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office will retry “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson on three rape counts following a November mistrial. The actor’s first trial led to a deadlocked jury, with no verdict reached and a lean “toward acquittal,” according to a Variety report.
“Our office has decided to retry this case,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told the court at a Tuesday hearing. Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo rejected a defense motion to dismiss the charges, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Masterson’s defense attorney argued that no new evidence would likely change the original outcome of a deadlocked jury.
“It’s not that things were ignored that Mr. Mueller thinks were important or significant,” attorney Phillip Cohen said. “It’s that things were discussed and not believed to be important to decision-making for some of the jurors.”
In November 2022, the jurors voted as follows on the three rape counts against Masterson:
However, Judge Olmedo held that Cohen’s arguments about what a future jury might do were “speculative and unsupported by the facts,” according to Variety.
“It appears there are many other witnesses the People could choose to call or different arguments the People could choose to make,” Judge Olmedo said. “A different outcome at a retrial is at least a possibility.”
Masterson is charged with the rape of three women at his home between 2001 and 2003. One of those accusers is a former girlfriend of the well-known sitcom actor. According to Variety, D.D.A. Mueller argued that the jury ignored supporting testimony when the case against Masterson was presented last year.
“Not giving these victims another chance with a jury who can sit there and consider all of the evidence – win, lose or draw – that would be an injustice,” Mueller said.
The plaintiffs named in the complaint against Masterson issued a statement supporting the decision to retry the rape case.
“We are pleased that Danny Masterson will not be permitted to simply escape criminal accountability,” two of the three women and the husband of one said in a joint statement released through their attorneys, according to the AP. “Despite suffering years of intimidation and harassment, we are completely committed to participating in the next criminal trial.”
The Danny Masterson retrial date has been tentatively set by Judge Olmedo for sometime in late March.
Masterson, 46, reportedly did not provide a comment to the media outside of the court following Tuesday’s hearing. The AP indicated that Masterson’s defense attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Masterson has pleaded not guilty to all three rape charges and his lawyer claims that each of the sexual acts was consensual.
The Danny Masterson rape trial put an “unwelcome spotlight” on the Church of Scientology, according to NBC News. The Church was accused of trying to cover up the allegations of rape against Masterson, a high-profile member.
“Prosecutors alleged that Masterson’s success as an actor gave him a high status within the church, and that he felt ‘entitled’ to have sex with the women regardless of their wishes,” NBC said.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office initially declined to file a case against the actor in 2004, after the first accuser gave a report to the LAPD, according to the NBC News story.
“In late 2016, the three accusers found each other and collectively reported him. They initially expressed frustration with what they saw as the slow pace of the LAPD investigation. Prosecutors eventually filed the charges three years later under California’s ‘one strike’ sex crime law, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years to life for each charge.”
Additional facts related to the Masterson rape case and the role played by the Church of Scientology include:
“In court on Tuesday, Cohen said that the testimony had given rise to ‘a whole slew of new questions,’ and said that further discovery will be needed. The court set dates of February 16 and March 6 for a status update and pre-trial motions,” NBC said.
Dordulian Law Group’s founder and former sex crimes prosecutor in the L.A. District Attorney’s Office, Sam Dordulian, explains what the retrial announcement in the Danny Masterson rape case signifies.
“In criminal law, decisions to retry cases are complex. First, you must factor in the outcome. In cases where the jury was heavily against you (such as 11-1 or 10-2), you have to strongly weigh that fact against the likelihood of a different result. Ultimately, however, the decision to retry is based on the prosecutor’s belief that a different result is likely based on adjustments in strategy or even presentation of the evidence. In cases where the jurors offer their insights on their deliberations, you can potentially adjust your presentation based on what the jurors liked and what they didn’t appreciate,” Dordulian who prosecuted sex crimes cases and obtained life sentences against multiple offenders, said.
“It’s a sign that prosecutors not only feel that there is substantial and compelling evidence against Masterson, but that the potential for a conviction remains fairly high. I think this is an indication that the deputy district attorneys believe that justice hasn’t been served, but they’re confident that it [justice] will be after a second trial,” Dordulian added.
The Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act – also known as California Assembly Bill 2777 (AB 2777) – was signed into law last year by Governor Newsom and took effect on January 1. Under the new California AB 2777 law, adult sexual assault survivors now have a three-year window to file civil claims for financial compensation against perpetrators for crimes which occurred on or after January 1, 2009.
From January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2026, all California adult survivors of sexual assault may file claims for damages, such as:
California Assembly Bill 2777 has multiple sections which are designed to assist survivors of sexual assault who wish to pursue justice for past crimes.
Firstly, the state’s Civil Code of Procedure is amended. Accordingly, any civil actions (lawsuits) brought for the recovery of damages, and in instances where the assault occurred on or after the survivor’s 18th birthday, are now bound to the later of the following deadlines:
Through the passage of AB 2777, any civil claim seeking to recover damages suffered as a result of a sexual assault or other inappropriate conduct, communication, or activity of a sexual nature may now be filed through December 31, 2026.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you have rights as well as options under the law. Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a full-service sex crimes firm with decades of experience helping survivors obtain justice and maximum financial compensation for their civil claims.
Survivors wishing to pursue a civil lawsuit against an attacker can be confident in choosing DLG’s SAJE Team which features four tiers of dedicated professionals available 24/7:
Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.
If you are interested in discussing your case with a SAJE Team member, please do not hesitate to contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM for a free, confidential, and no obligation consultation. When you’re ready to take the first step toward confronting your perpetuator, we’re here to fight tirelessly for the justice and financial compensation you deserve.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.