LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor Danny Masterson drugged and then raped three women at his Hollywood-area home between 2001 and 2003, a prosecutor told jurors Monday in his opening statement to the star’s retrial of “That ’70s Show”.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said Masterson put substances in drinks he gave to a longtime girlfriend and two women he knew through circles of friends around the Church of Scientology, all accused of rape.
“The evidence will show they were drugged,” Mueller told the jury. The defense denies that such evidence exists.
Direct discussion of the drugs has been missing from the first trial – which ended in a mistrial when a jury deadlocked on all three counts – with Mueller instead having to imply it through the testimony of the women, who have claimed to be dazed, disoriented and sometimes unconscious on nights when they described the actor raping them.
But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo is allowing the direct claim in the second trial.
Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, said in the defense’s opening statement that those stories and confusing claims are all the prosecution has, and told jurors, “there is no drug charge in this case.” “.
Attorneys for both sides have acknowledged that there is no forensic evidence of any substance Masterson may have given to the women because the police investigation leading to the two trials did not begin until about 15 years after the events.
But Mueller said he’ll call a police toxicology unit analyst, “who will tell you how some of the most common drug-facilitated sexual assaults, how some of the most common date-rape drugs work, how quickly they’re broken down, what the effects look like.” collateral.
Cohen replied that “a toxicologist can come up with an opinion on what he wants, but there’s no toxicology report, there’s no urine, no blood work, no DNA.”
Cohen was not allowed to refer to testimony from the first trial — something Olmedo has admonished him multiple times for doing so — but said he expected testimony this time to show that one of the women Masterson is accused of rape lo he saw while he made the alleged drug addict drink it.
Cohen told jurors that another of the women, a young actress who spent an evening alone with Masterson at his home in 2003, made no mention of drugs at the time.
“She’s talked to her mom about how her date with Masterson went, she’s talked to her friends, she’s never said to one person, ‘I’ve been drugged.’ Never,” Cohen said.
She would only hint that she was drugged years into the investigation, Cohen said.
This and many other similarities between the women’s stories stem from them talking to each other and “pollinating” the details of their accounts, which they did multiple times even after the detective in the case warned them that such communication could taint the case. against Masterson, Cohen said.
The drug allegations had echoes of the Bill Cosby trial, where women testified of similar experiences. Cosby’s conviction after two of his trials was finally dismissed by Pennsylvania’s highest court.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who claim they have been sexually assaulted.
Masterson, 47, could get 45 years in prison if convicted.
Mueller also told jurors that the women did not immediately go to authorities because they were told not to by Church of Scientology officials, and were told what happened to them was not rape.
Masterson is a prominent member of the church. All three women are former members.
The church said in a statement after the women’s testimony in the first trial that it “has no policy that prohibits or discourages members from reporting the criminal conduct of Scientologists, or anyone else, to law enforcement.”
In another departure from the first trial, Olmedo is allowing expert witnesses to testify about those policies.
Cohen said prosecution expert Claire Headley, a former member of the church’s leadership team, is someone working “to rid the world of Scientology, free people of Scientology,” and told jurors they would “hear terrible prejudices” in his testimony. The expert on her defense witness list is her father-in-law, a current high-level Scientologist.
Actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who has become the church’s top vilifier on social media and through a TV series she hosted with former dissident members, sat front row in the courtroom supporting Masterson’s accusers.
Masterson, who has been free on bail since his 2020 arrest, sat down at the defense table, with a wide circle of supporters behind him, many if not all church members, who also attended his first trial. They included his wife, model and actor Bijou Phillips; his sister-in-law, “One Day at a Time” actress Mackenzie Phillips; and his brother, “Malcolm in the Middle” actor Christopher Masterson.
Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton