UPDATED with retrial date, plus Jane Does and defense lawyer statement: Danny Masterson’s trial for forcible rape has been declared a mistrial.
The jury in the former That ’70s Show star’s trial say they were unable to reach a verdict on any of the three criminal counts that Masterson faced.
The six-man/six-woman panel informed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo on Wednesday afternoon that they were stuck. “After thorough and considerable discussion, it is clear that we as jurors are adamant about maintaining our individual positions on each of the three counts,” the jurors said in a letter read aloud by Olmedo. Soon after, the judge formally declared a mistrial, something the defense has sought almost since Day 1 of testimony back in late October.
A retrial date of March 27 has been penciled in. and Masterson remains free on bail of $3.3 million. A hearing on next steps is set for January 10. However, likely before that, the actor’s defense team plan to file to have all the charges tossed out. The move is based on the inclination of the jury made public today.
Looking at up to 45 years in state prison if found guilty on all counts, Masterson was arrested in 2020. The actor, who was quickly fired from Netflix’s comedy The Ranch at the end of 2017 as claims became known, always has denied he had nonconsensual sex between 2001 and 2003 with the alleged victims or anyone else.
The jurors told the downtown LA courtroom this afternoon that they were deeply divided on all three counts. On Count 1, it was 10-2 for not guilty; Count 2 saw eight going for not guilty, four for guilty; and Count 3 was seven for not guilty, five for guilty.
Two of the women at the heart of the prosecution’s unsuccessful case quickly reacted to the mistrial declaration today.
“We would first like to thank the jury for its public service,” Jane Doe #2 and Jane Doe #3, both former Scientologists, said in a statement along with others in the currently stayed civil case against Masterson and the Church of Scientology. “We are obviously disappointed that, at least for the time being, Daniel Masterson has evaded criminal accountability for his deplorable acts. However, we are collectively resolved to continue our fight for justice, including in civil court, where we have alleged that Mr. Masterson, along with the Church of Scientology, its leader David Miscavige, and others conspired to systematically stalk, harass, and intimidate us when we sought to shed light on Mr. Masterson’s actions. This legal fight is far from over, and it is critical that we reckon with Scientology’s alleged role in covering up reports of abuse and threatening victims.”
The paused civil suit claims that after going to the LAPD with their allegations, the ex-Scientologist plaintiffs have been stalked, intimidated, harassed and even allegedly saw some of their pets killed by the church and its affiliates. In early October, the Supreme Court denied Scientology’s petition to take up the case after a California appellate court earlier this year ruled that the ex-church members had a First Amendment right to not be held to the stipulations of a religious organizations once they have left it. The civil case had be scheduled to start up again next month, but that was on the premise the criminal case would be over and done.
Even though Judge Olmedo repeatedly said that Scientology was not on trial in the criminal case, the church, its policies and an alleged cover-up of the asserted rapes were brought up frequently by the prosecution. To varying degrees of success and failure, the Phillip Cohen-led defense tried everything they could to stymie mention of the Miscavige-run organization, and the civil matter.
Cohen took a much more measured tone in response to today’s deadlocked jury and the resulting mistrial declaration.
“I am so thankful for the incredible care and commitment that the jurors showed in this case,” the lawyer said. “This trial was about nothing other than the credibility of the three accusers and that credibility could only be determined by comparing, contrasting and focusing on the ever evolving statements given by the women. The vote count says it all and it is a true testament to our justice system that the jurors were able to see through all the inflammatory noise and focus solely on what was truly important.”
After often-searing and tear-filled testimony over five weeks from the three Jane Does and a fourth woman who also alleges Masterson raped her, the criminal trial first went to the jury on November 15. Within days, as the Thanksgiving break loomed, the panel came back to Judge Olmedo and said they essentially were deadlocked. Rejecting yet another mistrial motion from Masterson’s team, the judge said two and a half days wasn’t enough time to truly deliberate the issues at hand and sent the jury home for the holiday on November 18.
Returning on November 28 with two jurors out due to positive Covid results, two alternates were assigned to panel and Judge Olmedo instructed the jury to start anew. After a live read-back of testimony from Jane Doe #3 Wednesday morning, it is clear that two and a half days this week was more than enough.
Regrouping and going into next spring, Masterson’s clearly happy defense and the LA County District Attorney’s office now face a situation similar to what occurred in Bill Cosby’s 2017 rape trial.
That matter was taken up again by the Pennsylvania courts in 2018 and saw the much-accused man once known as “America’s Dad” labeled a sex offender and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for the 2004 rape of former Temple University employee Andrea Constand. Of course, Cosby was sprung from prison in 2021 after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction, spotlighting flaws with the methodology of prosecutors’ case against the comedian after decades earlier declining to file charges
Meanwhile in LA, just down the hall at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, closing statements began Wednesday in the multiple sex crimes trial of Harvey Weinstein. The jury in the also much accused producer’s West Coast case could be starting their own deliberations by the end of this week.
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