Actor Danny Masterson, best known for his roles as Steven Hyde in That 70’s Show and Jameson “Rooster” Bennett in Netflix’s The Ranch, was charged with three counts of rape by force or fear according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
What We Know:
- Masterson is accused of forcibly raping three women in separate incidents occurring from 2001 to 2003, all of which occurred in the actor’s Hollywood Hills home. In a news release, the district attorney’s office said Masterson is accused of raping a 23-year-old woman whom he had invited to his home sometime between October and December of 2003. He is also accused of raping a 28-year-old woman that same year as well as a 23-year-old woman in 2001.
- Masterson was arrested Wednesday morning and was released on $3.3 million bail later that afternoon.
A press release from the District Attorney’s Office said the office declined to file separate sexual assault charges against Masterson in two other cases, because, in one instance, there was insufficient evidence and, in another, because of the statute of limitations.
- Masterson’s attorney, Tom Mesereau has said that Masterson is innocent and will be exonerated, saying, “Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out. The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.”
- In 2017, Masterson was fired from his role in The Ranch amid allegations that he raped four women. Masterson denied at the time, telling NBC News in 2017, “I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix’s decision to write my character off of ‘The Ranch.’ From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me. Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit.”
- The claims came up against Masterson at the height of the #MeToo movement, prompting him to add, “In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.” It is unclear whether those allegations are related to the charges announced Wednesday.
- In 2017, it was reported that at least three of the women claimed they were pressured to keep quiet by the Church of Scientology, to which they and Masterson belonged, allegations that the Church of Scientology has denied. Last year, the four women filed a lawsuit against Masterson and the church accusing both of stalking, physical invasion of privacy, a conspiracy to obstruct justice, and the women added that after they spoke out about their allegations, they were threatened and surveilled. One woman said after she went to the police, people associated with the church loitered outside her home, looked through her windows, and filmed her home and family.
- In court papers responding to the accusations, a lawyer for Masterson called the lawsuit a “money grab” and a “publicity stunt orchestrated by Masterson’s ex-girlfriends”. A lawyer for the Church of Scientology described one of the women’s claims in court papers as “false and malicious” and said her experiences with her trash disappearing and people loitering near her house were simply the “price of modern, urban life”.
- Actress and ex-Scientologist Leah Remini whose television show, Scientology and the Aftermath, works to bring light to allegations against the church, interviewed the accusers about their experiences with both Masterson and the church. The lawsuit has not yet been settled.
- The alleged victims, whose names are protected as victims of sexual assault, said in a statement released by their attorneys, “all we have wanted was justice, accountability, and truth”. The statement went on to add, “We are thankful that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is finally seeking criminal justice against Masterson after a three-year investigation. We are confident that the truth will be known and hope that the charges filed today are the first steps in this long journey of healing, justice, and holding those that victimized us accountable.”
Masterson’s arraignment is scheduled for September 18 and if convicted on all three counts, Masterson faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison.