LOS ANGELES (AP) — The rape allegations against actor Danny Masterson were so riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies that prosecutors in their case involved the Church of Scientology to help fill in the gaps in his case, said Tuesday a defense attorney in his closing arguments.
“When there are contradictions and inconsistencies, blame others,” attorney Phillip Cohen said. “We’ve heard Scientology so often that it’s really become the go-to excuse.”
The three accusers and Masterson were members of the church at the time of the allegations two decades ago, when the actor was at the height of his fame on the sitcom ‘That ’70s Show,’ and Scientology figured prominently in the trial at Los Angeles Superior Look.
“There are no charges against Scientology, but you can’t avoid it,” Assistant District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said in his rebuttal.
Mueller said the women delayed reporting the allegations because church rules prevented them from going to law enforcement and if they told anyone else about what happened, they would be ostracized.
While Masterson remains a member of the church, the three women are not. They were afraid to testify because they had been harassed, bullied and harassed after reporting the crimes, Mueller said.
If the women’s statements were all consistent, that would have indicated they were scripted, Mueller said. He said inconsistencies often arise when victims of sexual assault have to relive their ordeal when speaking to police for the first time.
“They have to look inside themselves and pull out that pain and trauma that they’ve buried inside themselves,” Mueller said. “You can find inconsistencies there.”
Masterson, dressed in a brown tweed suit, watched the jury from the defense table with no visible reaction. His wife, actress and model Bijou Phillips, sat behind him at the front of the gallery, along with several family members and friends.
The jurors were sent to deliberate briefly at the end of the day before adjourning. The panel of seven women and five men returns to court on Wednesday morning.
Masterson, 46, faces three counts of forcible rape. If convicted, he could face up to 45 years in state prison.
The women testified that Masterson raped them at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. The defense said the acts were consensual.
The testimony of the women – all referred to as Jane Does 1-3 – was graphic and emotional. One woman, a friend of Masterson’s personal assistant, said she threw up and passed out after he gave her a mixed drink. She said she regained consciousness to find Masterson having rough and painful sex with her.
A former girlfriend of Masterson’s said she woke up to find him having sex with her when she hadn’t consented.
Masterson did not testify and his attorney presented no defense evidence, instead focusing on how the women’s stories had changed over time.
“The key to this case is not when they reported it,” Cohen said. “That’s what they said when they reported it. What they said after reporting it. And what they said at trial.
He said prosecutors’ portrayal of Masterson as a “creepy and abusive monster commander” was undermined by the testimony of his former girlfriend who said she voluntarily had sex with him after the alleged rapes.
“I understood the theme: painting Danny as a monster. But when you look at the actual testimony, it tells us something different,” Cohen said. “That’s the problem when you start to stray from the truth.”
Mueller told jurors to stick to the evidence and not be swayed by what he called defense speculation.
He scoffed at a statement Cohen made when he told jurors they could acquit Masterson if they believed he “really and reasonably believed” the women had consented to sex.
Mueller said no one would believe the acts described were consensual. He reminded them that a woman repeatedly told Masterson “no”, pulled his hair, and tried to pull away from him.
Another woman said Masterson helped her vomit by sticking his finger down her throat, then told her she was gross and made her take a shower because she vomited it in her hair, Mueller said.
“Then he puts her to bed, turns her around, and does whatever he wants with her,” Mueller said. “There is no reasonable belief (she) consented. Absolutely not.”