Actor Danny Masterson Will Go to Trial Over 3 Charges of Rape

On Friday, a judge declared actor Danny Masterson of That '70s Show must stand trial on three counts of rape.

Los Angeles County Superior Country Judge Charlaine Olmedo determined Masterson would stand trial after the fourth day of a preliminary hearing that included testimonies from the three women who say that Masterson raped them in 2001 and 2003.

Masterson has denied the charges. His attorney, Thomas Mesereau, said the sex was consensual and challenged the prosecution was tainted by anti-religious bias against the Church of Scientology. Masterson is a prominent Scientologist, and all three women are former Scientologists.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Actor Danny Masterson And Attorney
Actor Danny Masterson, left, stands with his lawyer Thomas Mesereau as he is arraigned on rape charges at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center on September 18, 2020 in Los Angeles. Masterson has been charged with raping three women on separate occasions between 2001 and 2003. Lucy Nicholson/Getty Images

The judge said she found the women's explanations credible that church teachings kept them from reporting their accusations to police for years.

Another defense attorney, Sharon Appelbaum, said the three women had colluded to form a "sisterhood" that "seems to want to take down Mr. Masterson and take down Scientology."

Appelbaum said 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.

Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said the testimony was "anything but" coordinated.

"These were not rehearsed statements," Mueller said. "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."

Defense attorneys also said a lawsuit filed by the women showed they were seeking financial gain. The prosecutor countered that the lawsuit was filed to stop the harassment they had been receiving from the church since coming forward. The church has denied all the allegations in the lawsuit.

The 45-year-old actor has been free on bail since his June arrest. He is charged with three counts of rape by force or fear and could get up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

The forthcoming trial represents the rare prosecution of a Hollywood figure in the #MeToo era despite dozens of investigations by police and the Los Angeles district attorney, most of which have ended without charges.

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 from 1998 to 2006 alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace.

He had reunited 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 Masterson, but later in the year, after allegations against Harvey Weinstein shook Hollywood, he was written off the show.

Danny Masterson Seedlings Art District
Danny Masterson arrives at The Unveiling of Seedling's Arts District Headquarters on May 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. Masterson's attorney Thomas Mesereau repeatedly challenged a woman on the witness stand during a hearing on May 20 to determine whether Masterson should stand trial on three counts of rape. He has pleaded not guilty. Rich Fury/Associated Press