Actor Danny Masterson will face a retrial on charges he forcibly raped three women at his home in the Hollywood Hills between 2001 and 2003, Los Angeles County prosecutors announced Tuesday.
The decision comes after a jury hopelessly deadlocked on the charges at a trial that ended in November.
Masterson, best known for his role on the sitcom That ’70s Show, appeared in court as his defense lawyer Philip Cohen asked the court to dismiss the three counts based on the argument that “no reasonable jury” could return a conviction based on a repeat of the same evidence.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo denied the request and set March 27 as the beginning of a 10-day window in which the new trial is expected to begin.
Masterson, 46, had no comment as he left the courthouse Tuesday, but his accusers celebrated the retrial announcement in a statement sent to Rolling Stone.
“We are pleased that Danny Masterson will not be permitted to simply escape criminal accountability. Despite suffering years of intimidation and harassment, we are completely committed to participating in the next criminal trial to the extent requested by prosecutors and again testifying about Mr. Masterson’s depraved actions,” Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3, who’s publicly identified herself as Chrissie Carnell Bixler, said. (Carnell Bixler’s husband, The Mars Volta frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and Marie Bobette Riales, another Masterson rape accuser who’s a co-plaintiff in the related civil lawsuit filed against Masterson and the Church of Scientology by the three accusers in the criminal case, were also listed as parties to the statement.)
The defense’s request that Judge Olmedo dismiss the charges argued that jurors on the first trial were hung with a split of 10-2 in favor of acquittal on Count 1, 8-4 in favor of acquittal on Count 2, and 7-5 in favor of acquittal on Count 3. Cohen wrote in his filing that interviews with the jurors after the mistrial revealed they took their job seriously and were not “derailed by one or more domineering jurors.”
“It is conceivable that a retrial could involve a far less diligent and fair-minded jury that does get hijacked by one of more forceful personalities,” Cohen argued in the paperwork ahead of the hearing.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller blasted that argument in his opposition filing, revealing the prosecution’s plan to introduce new testimony at a retrial.
“Dismissal of the charges against defendant Daniel Masterson following a hung jury is not in the ‘furtherance of justice,’” Mueller wrote in his paperwork obtained by Rolling Stone. “The defendant is charged with forcible rape committed against three women on separate occasions. Arguably, there are few charges more serious and violent.”
He said not only does he “intend to introduce additional evidence at the retrial,” but jurors interviewed after the mistrial admitted they “did not consider” some of the evidence presented during the trial, “including the influence of Scientology on the victims.”
Mueller wrote that prosecutors will seek to introduce additional expert testimony at a retrial regarding the “neurobiology of trauma,” “memory for traumatic events,” and “alcohol and memory.”
“The additional testimony will assist the jury on retrial to understand common responses to perceived threats in the context of a traumatic event; that trauma survivors may experience gaps in their memories yet also possess vivid, unforgettable distressing memories of the event; and the prominent effects of alcohol on memory functioning,” he wrote.
He also revealed the investigation is ongoing and “there is at least one additional potential witness the that the people intend to locate and interview regarding any observations of and/or materially relevant statements made by Christina B. in the course of her relationship with defendant.”
Masterson, a prominent Scientologist, has pleaded not guilty to the three charges of forcible rape related to the three Jane Doe accusers and remains out on bail.
Jane Doe 3, who has publicly identified herself as Chrissie Carnell Bixler, testified at the trial that Masterson assaulted her twice at the end of 2001, toward the end of a troubled domestic relationship. She said the first assault involved Masterson initiating penetrative sex with her while she was sleeping.
“I woke up and he was having sex with me. I did not want to. I told him so, I told him, ‘No,’ many times,” she testified. “He wouldn’t stop. I was trying to push him off me. He pushed my arms back and put his forearm on my arm. I felt trapped.”
Carnell Bixler also testified that Masterson struck her in the face, spit on her, and called her “white trash” when she pulled his hair to defend herself. She testified the second attack involved Masterson penetrating her anally while she was passed out.
Jane Doe 1 testified that Masterson raped her and put a gun to her head after feeding her a fruity vodka cocktail at his home in 2003. She claimed the actor threatened her and demanded that she not tell her friends, including Lisa Marie Presley, about the alleged assault. “You’re not going to tell fucking Lisa,” Jane Doe 1 said Masterson told her.
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Jane Doe 2 told jurors that Masterson raped her at his home in late 2003 after feeding her a glass of wine that caused her to feel limp. She claims the actor ignored her pleas to stop and overpowered her.
For his part, Masterson has called the women’s allegations “outrageous” and “ridiculous.”