Two years after Danny Masterson was charged with three counts of forcible rape, and about 20 years after the incidents would’ve occurred, the That ’70s Show star’s case was declared a mistrial on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
A jury of six women and six men, who began deliberations at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 16, determined after nearly two weeks in discussion that they were deadlocked. The deliberations — which started with seven women and five men — had already dragged on, carrying into the Thanksgiving break. On Monday, Nov. 28, two jurors tested positive for Covid and were replaced with two alternate jurors, causing deliberations to start anew this week.
Masterson, who didn’t testify for the trial, was stoic following the declaration, like he’d been for much of the trial. He declined to comment.
Following the mistrial declaration, the prosecutors didn’t confirm whether or not they’d pursue a retrial. “It’s a conversation we have to have with our office,” deputy district attorney Ariel Anson said outside the courtroom.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo told the courtroom that there would be a status conference for a potential retrial on Jan. 10 if prosecutors do retry Masterson, and the potential retrial would start March 27.
“We are not even close to coming to a unanimous count on any charge and we are not convinced that will change,” the jury told the court Wednesday afternoon. The jury’s foreperson told the court that they’d voted four times on Wednesday and three times the day prior; only two of the 12 jurors voted guilty on the first charge, four voted guilty on the second charge and five on the third.
“I think the count reflects how critical credibility was in this case,” Masterson’s attorney Philip Cohen told reporters. “Credibility truly, is everything in this case. And I think the vote count speaks to that.”
The mistrial comes after a month of intense testimony in which four women (three of them were attached to the charges) alleged that Masterson violently raped them when they were intoxicated, asleep, or in-and-out of consciousness between the years 2001 to 2003. During closing arguments on Nov. 15, Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller called for the jury to hold Masterson accountable, describing Masterson’s actions as a pattern of predatory behavior where “no never meant no.”
“If you were a young woman, you were far from safe. He would rape you. If you were incapacitated elsewhere in the house, he would come and find you,” Mueller said. “And if you were not yet intoxicated, he would offer you the alcohol to get you there, and then he would forcibly rape you. And if you were in a relationship with him for any period of time, he would control you.”
Masterson’s attorney Cohen repeatedly questioned inconsistencies in the accusers’ testimonies during his closing argument, including questioning how visible bruises were in photos of Jane Doe 1 in the days following the incident, or why earlier police reports had no mention of Masterson pulling a handgun as she had recalled in court. He showed the court a supportive message the fourth accuser Tricia Vassey (who accused Masterson of rape, but whose testimony wasn’t attached to the three official charges) sent to Masterson’s brother Christopher in 2017 following reports of the investigation into Danny. Cohen questioned why Jane Doe 3, or Christina B., had consensual sex with Masterson two more times after they’d broken up if he had abused and assaulted her during their relationship.
“The witnesses were looking to make this about something other than Danny and these allegations,” Cohen said in his closing argument on Tuesday, Nov. 15. “Why? Because there are so many contradictions.”
With the mistrial declaration, the jury couldn’t decide one way or another, leaving little closure.
Much of Masterson’s family waited outside the courtroom each day since deliberations started, anxiously awaiting a decision. About 90 minutes after the jury first began deliberating, the court was brought back in session as the jury requested to see the degree of guilty chart that Cohen displayed during his closing argument the day before, as well as a police report referenced during testimonies. But given that neither of those were classified as evidence, the request was denied.
The court was back in session on Nov. 17 over a second question the jury had Thursday morning, asking for the transcript of Jane Doe 1’s testimony regarding a call she said she and Masterson had in the days following the incident. The jury was brought back into the court for the court reporter to read the conversation.
Before Wednesday’s mistrial declaration, the jury asked for a full read-back of the third Jane Doe accuser’s testimony regarding a rape allegation from November 2001.
The accusers’ testimony detailed violent incidents with Masterson in which the actor allegedly raped them while they were intoxicated, asleep or unconscious. Jane Doe 1 told the court that Masterson penetrated her anus with his penis in September of 2002 while she was drunk and at his home, though that incident wasn’t included in any of the charges. She told her friends about the incident, causing drama among her friend group as some were angry at her.
In 2003, Jane Doe 1 said she came back to his house again after a dinner party. After having a vodka cocktail by his front yard, within half an hour she’d begun to get increasingly disoriented, and she told the court that Masterson dragged her to his jacuzzi and threw her in after telling her to remove her clothes. Eventually, she claimed, he took her to the bathroom and stuck his fingers in her mouth to get her to vomit before washing her off in the shower. By then she’d gone in-and-out of consciousness, and awoke in Masterson’s bed with his penis in her vagina, and at another point in her anus, she testified. At one point, Masterson pulled out a handgun from his drawer and told her to “shut the fuck up” before putting it back, she added.
Jane Doe 2 said in her testimony that Masterson invited her over to his home to go in his jacuzzi. She said that she’d repeatedly told Masterson that they couldn’t have sex, but later in the night, he’d taken her into his bedroom and aggressively flipped her onto her back and stomach and “pounded” her hard enough that she vomited in her mouth. “He was raping me,” Jane Doe said during her testimony. “I was shocked and I was like, ‘Oh my God, what are you doing? I told you not to do that.’”
Christina B. told the court Masterson raped her numerous times throughout their relationship. She claimed Masterson raped her while she was unconscious in December 2001, and that she pulled his hair to get him to stop.
While Scientology wasn’t on trial for Masterson’s case, it was the most prominent topic throughout the hearings — beyond the allegations themselves since opening statements in October — and the trial put the organization’s practices and policies on display. Masterson is a prominent Scientologist, and all three of the women tied to the charges were members of the organization at the time of the incidents. They’ve all said they feared retribution from the Church for testifying. Masterson’s defense attorneys have repeatedly critiqued including Scientology and its policies and practices in the trial — motioning for several mistrials — and the court looked to keep the topic of Scientology reined in, to be mentioned only when relevant to the testimony.
The first Jane Doe accuser told the court during her testimony that the Church actively discouraged her from going to the LAPD to report the incident, allegedly telling her that going to the police would be a “high crime.” Doing so, she claimed, could get her labeled a “suppressive person” to Scientologists, meaning she’d be excommunicated and would be cast out from her friends, family, and much of her former life. She did so anyways, filing a police report in June 2004 and provided her Scientology ethics officer Julian Swartz’s phone number. She testified that Swartz called her after the LAPD contacted him, expressing his concern. “Yeah, you’re fucked,” she recalled Swartz saying. “You have no idea how fucked you are.” She alleged the Church of Scientology was prepared to excommunicate her, so she signed a $400,000 settlement and NDA to avoid the punishment.
Christina B., also referred in court as Jane Doe 3, similarly testified that she feared the Church would “destroy” her if she went to the police with her allegations, and that Scientology officials told her that she shouldn’t refer to any incident with Masterson as “rape,” and implied that she must have done something that caused the incident to happen to her.
The Church of Scientology called the women’s allegations “fabrications” in a statement to Rolling Stone.