The actor could get up to 45 years in prison if convicted
"That '70s Show" actor Danny Masterson must stand trial on three counts of rape said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo after hearing days of dramatic and emotional testimony from three women who said he attacked them in 2001 and 2003, reported 4029 News.
According to the outlet, Judge Olmedo made the determination after the prosecution laid out its evidence over four days. She explained that she found the women's testimony credible for the purposes of a preliminary hearing where the bar for sufficient evidence is much lower than at trial. Dozens of investigations done by police and the Los Angeles district attorney have ended without charges. Masterson continues to deny the rape charges while his attorney, Thomas Mesereau, stands by the statement that the actor had consensual sex with the women and that he would prove his client's innocence, reported 4029 News.
The outlet reported how the actor had no visible reaction to the judge's decision to send him to trial as he sat in court. The hearing was attended by a small group of his family and friends. Mesereau repeatedly challenged the women on discrepancies in their stories in the years since they said they were raped. He further suggested that the prosecution was tainted by anti-religious bias against the Church of Scientology. Masterson is still a prominent Scientologist while the three women went on the leave the Church. The judge said that she found the women's explanations credible and said that the church teachings kept them from reporting to the police for years. Sharon Appelbaum, another defense attorney, accused the three women of having formed a "sisterhood" "to take down Mr. Masterson and takedown Scientology," reported 4029 News.
Appelbaum accused them of having faked it all by saying that 'they had coordinated their stories over the years, making them increasingly similar, adding and subtracting details that didn't fit, and changing stories they previously told police.' To which Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said the testimony was "anything but" coordinated. "These were not rehearsed statements. They were heartfelt, and they each had their versions of what happened. If there is any consistency in these statements, it was because the defendant was consistent in these acts," Mueller said. Defense attorneys went on to claim that a lawsuit filed by the women proved that they were seeking financial gain. The prosecutor countered the claim by saying that the lawsuit was filed to stop the harassment they had been receiving from the church, reported 4029 News.
Masterson,45, has been free on bail since his June arrest. He could get up to 45 years in prison if convicted. He was been told to return for arraignment on June 7. 4029 reported that the allegations happened at the height of Masterson's fame, when he starred as Steven Hyde on Fox TV's retro sitcom "That '70s Show" alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Topher Grace. He was working with Kutcher on the Netflix Western sitcom "The Ranch" when the LAPD investigation of him was revealed in March 2017. The news did not have immediate career repercussions for the actor at the time. He was written off the show a year later when allegations against Harvey Weinstein shook Hollywood.