Danny Masterson
File image: Actor Danny Masterson is arraigned on rape charges at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center on September 18, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Masterson has been charged with forcibly raping three women on separate occasions between 2001 and 2003. Photo by Lucy Nicholson - Pool/Getty Images

Actor Danny Masterson has been found guilty on two out of three counts of rape by a jury in Los Angeles.

Masterson, known for his role in the TV series "That '70s Show", could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and was taken away in handcuffs after the court ruling.

The accusations against Masterson were made by three women, all former members of the Church of Scientology, who claimed he sexually assaulted them at his Hollywood residence between 2001 and 2003.

Prosecutors argued that Masterson had used his position as a prominent Scientologist to evade accountability.

The jury, consisting of seven women and five men, could not reach a verdict on the third count after a week of deliberations, resulting in an 8-4 deadlock.

One of Masterson's victims, who was raped in 2003, expressed a range of emotions including relief, exhaustion, strength, and sadness, knowing that he would be held accountable for his criminal actions.

Bijou Phillips, Masterson's wife and an actress and model, reportedly cried as he was led away, while other family members and friends maintained a stoic demeanor, according to CBS News.

In December 2022, a different jury in an earlier trial was unable to render a decision.

Prosecutors decided to retry Masterson and this time the court permitted them to include fresh evidence that had been excluded from the first trial.

The actress was not accused of drugging his victims, but the jury heard testimony indicating the ladies had taken drugs before the actor's rape.

At the height of the #MeToo movement in 2017, Masterson was accused of rape for the first time.

He responded by saying that he had not been charged or convicted of a crime and that in the climate at the time "it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused."

The charges against Danny Masterson came after a three-year investigation conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department. Two other cases were not pursued by prosecutors due to insufficient evidence and the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors asserted that the Church of Scientology had played a role in covering up the assaults. However, the organization vehemently denied these allegations.

At the time the assaults occurred, Masterson and all three accusers were members of the Church of Scientology. Some of the women stated that it took years to come forward because officials from the Church discouraged them from reporting the rapes to the police.

Instead, they were directed to rely on the Church's internal justice system, as stated by the prosecutors.

According to prosecutors, Scientology officials informed one survivor that she would face expulsion from the Church unless she signed a non-disclosure agreement and accepted a payment of $400,000 (£320,000).

Judge Charlaine Olmedo permitted discussions on the doctrines and practices of Scientology by both the prosecution and defense during the trial, BBC reported.

During closing arguments, Masterson's defense lawyer said of the survivors: "If you are looking for motives why people are not being truthful... there are motives all over the place."

While the Church of Scientology was not directly involved as a defendant in the case, an attorney affiliated with the Church expressed dissatisfaction with the portrayal of the organization during the retrial by sending an email to the district attorney's office. This occurred before closing arguments were presented.

The defense contended that the prosecution heavily relied on testimony regarding the use of drugs, as there was a lack of evidence demonstrating force or violence.

Masterson's legal team made attempts to have a mistrial declared, but these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

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