With a jury finally selected and seated, Danny Masterson’s trial on multiple rape charges began today with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office putting the Church of Scientology front and center.
From the beginning, Assistant D.A. Reinhold Mueller proclaimed the trial as “three different sexual assault cases, in fact three different case of forcible rape.” With mere minutes to go before the noon lunch break and after the prosecution had completed its opening statement, defense lawyer Phillip Cohen gave an indication of the hard tone this trial could take on. The attorney leapt up to give a “couple of highlights” of their argument, how the alleged victims disregarded the advice of the LAPD and communicated with each other, and how there was a shakedown at play because Masterson made “oodles and oodles of money” on That 70s Show. With a number of objections from Mueller and others at the prosecution table, very quickly, as Cohen became more and more aggressive, a frustrated Judge Charlene Olmedo called the parties up to the bench and could be heard telling them to essentially dial it down.
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“This case will also be about certain policies that each of these alleged victims understood they needed to follow,” Assistant D.A. Mueller told the courtroom earlier in the day of the David Miscavige-led organization of which the That 70s Show star and the trio of victims at the heart of the trial are or were members of. “They acted in certain ways, they engaged in certain behavior and made certain choices …based on certain policies,” Mueller went on to say of the role of Scientology in Masterson’s life and case.
As the prosecutor spoke late Tuesday morning, the alleged victims’ faces were displayed on a video monitor on the far south wall of Olmedo’s courtroom in downtown Los Angeles. In fact, the large TV monitor was utilized frequently by Mueller as he ambled through the early stages of his opening statement
Starting with a description of the alleged September 2002 rape by Masterson of an intoxicated “Jen B” in his Hollywood Hills home, Mueller noted the complexity of the case and the external forces at play. Focusing on the sudden loss of friendships and more that second generation Scientologist “Jen B” suffered after telling others about what supposedly happened with Masterson, Mueller admitted the alleged victim did not go to the police at the time and that she felt the incident, which may have resulted in a “pregnancy and a miscarriage” as a result, was consensual.
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“What she didn’t believe was consensual was that he flipped her over and penetrated her anus,” Mueller stated, additionally describing how “Jen B” came to see the whole incident as non-consensual over time.
As has been detailed in court documents over the past few years since Masterson was first arrested by the LAPD, part of that change of mind by “Jen B” was another alleged assault in April 2003. After consuming half of a tumbler of a “fruity” drink that Masterson made for her, “Jen B” said she started to fell “woozy.” Originally intending just to pick up some keys, “Jen B” was pulled over to a Jacuzzi and told that she had 15 seconds to disrobe before he tossed her in the water.
In the corresponding sequence of events, Masterson announced he was taking an increasingly nauseous “Jen B” upstairs to help her vomit. Soon afterwards, according to the Assistant D.A., Masterson moved the in and out of consciousness “Jen B” into the shower and, even as she tried to fight him off, carried her into the next door master bedroom. It is then that the second sexual incident with Masterson occurred – an incident that saw Masterson on top of her, penetrating her and smothering her with a pillow while telling her “you like this don’t you?” Instructing “Jen B” to not tell any of the people she told of the first incident of this second assault, Masterson supposedly also yelled at the passing out “Jen B” to “don’t f*cking move, don’t f*cking move,” when there is a knock on the door.
Mueller said that “Jen B” remained in the master bedroom, at one point hiding in a closet, until the morning of the next day, April 26, 2003. Missing her father’s birthday BBQ because she was at Masterson’s house, “Jen B” did not later that day tell any of her family of what had occurred because she was “incredibly upset and embarrassed about what happened.” Later on a family trip to Florida, bruises started to show on her body and she did confide in a teenage member of her family elements of what occurred at Masterson’s home.
It was at this point in his suddenly more aggressive opening statement, Assistant D.A. Muller truly flicked the switch on Scientology.
“If you are going to tell me this is rape, it is not rape, “Jen B”s immediate Scientology supervisor Julian Schwartz told her when she went to him with the matter, according to Mueller. “In fact, you are not even allowed to say the word rape. You are not allowed to go to police or anyone.”
Schwartz allegedly made it clear to “Jen B” that if she did make any of what happened public it would be consider “a high crime” in Scientology and she could be declared a “suppressive person. At a subsequent response in April 2004 from Scientology’s International Justice Chief also told “Jen B” she would be a SP if you went to the cops, which she was once again asking permission to do.
Still, on June 6, 2006, “Jen B” went to the Hollywood LAPD station to tell them her story. Very soon afterwards a meeting at “Jen B”s parent’s home saw the young woman pressured to sign an NDA and drop the matter or be essentially excommunicated, “Jen B” inked the document for the Scientology lawyer allegedly in her parent’s living room, and a series of payments followed as the police case withered.
In a tie and non-matching blazer and pants, Masterson watched in the near silent courtroom as Mueller then detailed his relationship with “Christina B,” their dating, and the increasingly violent sex he supposedly forced on her. “He spat on her face, he called her white trash, as he frequently did,” Mueller said of Masterson’s treatment of the one-time model after she tried to force him off her after one alleged attack
As the jury, alternates, and members of Masterson’s family and friends looked on in the packed and partially masked Department 105 courtroom, the prosecution carefully planted the seeds of evidence of Masterson seemingly drugging his victims, having “anal sex while you were unconscious,” and the swift moves Scientology took to protect the highly valued actor. In the case of “Christina B,” her Scientology advisors said that someone “can’t rape your 2B” a.k.a. partner and the assault occurred because of something she has done previously in her life. Interrupted by the defense at this point, the Assistant D.A. told the jury that Christina B was instructed by Scientology advisors that she was supposed to provide sex to Masterson whenever he wanted it because he was such a big contributor and supporter to the church.
Around 11:30 AM PT, the defense objected again to Mueller’s mentions of Scientology in his opening statement and all the lawyers were called up to confer with the judge. When Mueller restarted his opening statement he noted that “Christina B” and Masterson’s relationship ended in March 2002, and they did have two subsequent incidents of consensual sex. Still Christina B didn’t go to the police until 2016
“All she really wanted was the church to intervene …to get some help for Mr. Masterson.”
Clearly aiming to wrap up his presentation before the lunch break, Mueller outlined the first meeting between a “commanding” Masterson and “NT” in the early 2000s and how she told him “no sex” She “begins to feel very buzzed” and “blurry,” Mueller said of NT after a glass of wine or two at Masterson’s Hollywood Hills house. “Feeling scared,” NT was “ordered” by Masterson to go upstairs and “they end up in his bathroom shower.” She “recalls being in his shower, there was kissing,” and Masterson allegedly penetrated her before taking the two of them into his bedroom, as he did with “Jen B.” Graphically describing the forced sex NT endured, Muller quoted from a deposition that she felt “like a little rag doll.”
Taking pains to educate the jury on the “difficulties” rape victims can have “processing” what has happened to them, Mueller noted they will learn of the fear the victims had of the Church of Scientology.
Masterson was arrested in June 2020 on three counts of forcible rape that allegedly occurred in 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood Hills home. Out on $3.3 million bail, the Tom Mesereau-defended actor is looking at a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison if found guilty. Masterson, who was subsequently dropped from Netflix’s Ashton Kutcher co-starring comedy The Ranch at the end of 2017 as claims became known, has always denied he had nonconsensual sex with anyone.
Today’s opening statements come after almost a week of jury selection on the ninth floor of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. In a convergence of claimed crimes, Harvey Weinstein’s LA rape trial is taking place at the other of the hall in the downtown Los Angeles building. That case is not expected to seat a jury until next week at the earliest.
With the Church of Scientology looming large over the Masterson trial, as was made evident in questioning of potential jurors yesterday, the anticipated two-month long case in DTLA is expected to see witnesses such as all four of the Jane Does, a number of former Scientologists like Lisa Marie Presley, as well as Hollywood heavyweight attorney Marty Singer. The latter lawyer represented Masterson for many years and was intimately involved in efforts by the actor and his associates to ultimately unsuccessfully quell the accusations several years ago.
Still, despite Judge Charlaine Olmedo’s words that this is not a trial about Scientology, the Church is very much in the spotlight here with one of its most high profile members accused by ex-members of sexual assault.
That spotlight is also partially due to Scientology itself.
The David Miscavige-led non-profit group was unsuccessful earlier this month in convincing the Supreme Court to get embroiled in its desire to stop several former members of the church and alleged Masterson victims from taking them to trial on claims of surveillance, harassment and the killing of pets. The now revived suit from four women who have claimed they were targeted by Scientology after going to the LAPD a few years back with their inital claims against the actor has been paused pending Masterson’s criminal case. Still, with the behind closed doors “religious arbitration” effort and petition denied by SCOTUS, and former Scientologists among the victims in Masterson’s trial, the methods and potential complicity of the celebrity rich Church will be hard pressed not to be right near the center of attention in the courtroom, now and down the line.
Earlier Tuesday, before the D.A.’s office began their opening statement, Judge Olmedo briefed the 19 jurors and alternates on what was going to happen and what was expected of them during the trial and deliberations. Explaining that opening statements are designed to lay out “what the attorneys expect the evidence to show,” the judge also noted that the defense did not have to present an opening statement if they did not want to. She also made a point of noting that jurors are not allowed to discuss the trial, the evidence or any matter connected to the case with anyone including “spiritual advisors or therapists.” This being LA and a celebrity trial, the judge made a distinct point of informing the jurors and alternates that while they can talk to anyone they want after the trial is complete and verdict delivered, they have to wait 90 days under California law before accepting compensation for books, broadcast or any other platform on the case.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.
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