Jurors begin deliberating in rape trial of That ’70s Show star Masterson

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Jurors in Danny Masterson’s rape retrial began deliberations on Wednesday morning in the case against the former That ’70s Show star.

The jury of seven women and five men got the case when prosecutors finally finished their rebuttal after all-day closing arguments a day earlier.

Late last year, a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case against Masterson involving rape allegations by three women, and Los Angeles Judge Charlaine Olmedo declared a mistrial.

Prosecutors said in their closing argument on Tuesday that Masterson drugged the women in order to assault them, then relied on his status as a prominent member in the Church of Scientology to avoid consequences for decades.

Sexual Misconduct Danny Masterson
Los Angeles County deputy district attorneys Reinhold Mueller, right, and Ariel Anson arrive for closing arguments at the trial (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

“The defendant makes that choice for these victims. And he does it over and over and over again.”

After closing arguments, Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, made a motion for a mistrial, one of several that he made during the three-week trial, because of the prosecution’s mention of drugging, which is not part of the charges.

Ms Olmedo rejected the motion, saying that the prosecution was acting within the bounds of her pre-trial decision by allowing them to assert that the women were drugged.

Masterson, 47, has pleaded not guilty to raping three women at his home between 2001 and 2003. During the defensc’s closing, Mr Cohen told jurors that the women’s accounts are so full of inconsistencies that there is more than enough reasonable doubt for jurors to acquit Masterson.

Mr Cohen emphasised the lack of any physical evidence of drugging, with the investigation that led to Masterson’s arrest coming some 15 years after the alleged rapes.

“Miss Anson presented a case as if she was arguing a drugging case,” Mr Cohen said. “Maybe it’s because there is no evidence of force or violence.”

Scientology played an outsized role during the trial. Masterson is a member, and all three women are former members.

Prosecutors said the institution protected him, and helped convince the women that they were not raped and could not go to authorities to report a fellow Scientologist in good standing.

The church denied having any such policy.

Masterson could get more than 40 years in prison if convicted on all three counts.

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