Thu 01 Jun 2023 11:53 am - Jerusalem Time
American actor Danny Masterson has been found guilty of raping two women
A Los Angeles jury on Wednesday convicted American actor Danny Masterson, best known for his role in "The Seventies Show", a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, of raping two women.
The 47-year-old actor was sent to prison immediately after the hearing, pending the determination of his sentence by a judge on the fourth of August. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
Three women, also members of the Church of Scientology, have accused him of raping them at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003.
The members of the jury supported two of them, while they did not reach the necessary consensus to issue a verdict in the matter of the third plaintiff.
During the trial, prosecutors concluded that the actor had "drugged and raped both of these victims" and called for him to be "held responsible" for these abuses.
This case, which began in 2017 following the exposure of the sexual scandals accused of former producer Harvey Weinstein and sparked the launch of the #MeToo movement, also raised questions about the role of the Church of Scientology.
Two of the complainants asserted that the organization, which is particularly active in Los Angeles, discouraged them from contacting the police.
Masterson's attorneys stressed that the plaintiffs' statements had changed over the years, and indicated that negative premises against the Church of Scientology may have motivated the lawsuit.
Asked by AFP, the Church of Scientology did not immediately respond.
In an earlier trial in November, a different jury declined to rule on the case, and was unable to reach a consensus.
Masterson rose to stardom in 1998 through the comedy series "The Seventies Show" as Stephen Hyde alongside Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher.
He participated again with Kutcher in the series “The Ranch” on “Netflix”, but he was excluded from it in 2017 after the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that it was investigating multiple allegations of rape against the actor.
After the actor's arrest in June 2020, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said it had dropped two more sexual assault charges against him, due to insufficient evidence and a lapse of the statute of limitations.