A judge on Wednesday declared a mistrial in the rape trial That 70’s show Actor Danny Masterson after the jury said it was deadlocked on the charges, the Associated Press reported.
Masterson, 46, had faced three counts of rape or fear at his Hollywood Hills home in 2001 and 2003 for allegedly sexually assaulting three women. Each of the women said that Masterson provided them with alcohol and that when they became disoriented he took them upstairs to his bedroom and brutally raped them.
Masterson, who is best known for playing Steven Hyde That 70’s showHe had pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming he only had consensual sex with the women. If found guilty, he could have faced a maximum sentence of 45 years to life imprisonment.
The jury said they voted seven times in the past two days and couldn’t reach a consensus on any of the three counts, according to the AP. Only two jurors voted for a conviction on the first count, four for a conviction on the second count and five for a conviction on the third count.
The judge has set a March date for a retrial.
The trial comes after two jurors tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and were replaced by two alternates, prompting deliberations to be restarted from the ground up. The original jury had announced on November 18 after three days of deliberations that they were deadlocked, but at that point the judge ordered them to continue working to reach a unanimous decision.
The week-long trial included graphic testimonies from the three women accused of rape by Masterson and a fourth woman who also accused him of sexual assault, as well as a lengthy discussion of the Church of Scientology.
Despite attempts by Masterson, a prominent Scientologist, to keep the church out of the process, the institution and its practices came into focus when the three women, all former Scientologists, testified how church officials allegedly tried to shield the actor from accountability to protect .
A woman, identified as JB during testimony, told jurors she thought Masterson was killing her as she described how the actor allegedly smothered her with a pillow and strangled her when he sexually assaulted her in April 2003 . It wasn’t until over a year later that she first reported the incident to police.
She testified that she did not go to the police sooner because, as Masterson understood, “you can’t report another Scientologist in good standing” in the congregation to the authorities.
She said she would be “instantly guilty of a serious crime” and be expelled from the church, meaning no members could speak or have contact with her. For JB, that meant being cut off from her parents, who were also Scientologists, with whom she lived and worked, and all of her friends.
“My life would be over,” she testified.
During the closing arguments, Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, dissected the women’s statements, highlighting inconsistencies in what they told law enforcement, their family and friends, and what they said in court. Cohen suggested that discrepancies raised enough reasonable doubt that what they told the jury was not true.
“[Prosecutors] want to win this case so badly that they ignored it until this closing argument,” Cohen said. “You ignored the blatant, obvious, overwhelming contradictions and inventions that each Jane Doe gave you.”
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Assistant District Attorney Reinhold Mueller argued that such disparity in the women’s testimonies is due to the elapsed time, the immense trauma they were experiencing, and the fact that they are speaking about it to different investigators on different occasions had to, of course, ask different questions. He also noted that the key details in the women’s stories remained the same over the years.
“Every time, to bring that trauma out, they have to find out what’s inside them,” Mueller said. “They have done their best to answer the questions we put to them in court.”