Judge rejects Danny Masterson's plea to delay his rape trial
EXCLUSIVE: Judge rejects That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson’s plea to delay his rape trial over Los Angeles mayoral candidates’ anti-Scientology campaign ads. Jury selection set to begin NEXT WEEK
- Danny Masterson asked a judge to delay his rape trial until after the Los Angeles mayoral race on November 8
- Both candidates – Karen Bass and Rick Caruso – have bashed the Church of Scientology in television ads
- Judge Charlaine Olmedo denied the request to postpone on Tuesday
- ‘There is no evidence to suggest that everyone holds a negative view of Scientology,’ Judge Olmedo said
- Jury selection is due to begin October 11 at LA’s Superior Courthouse
- Masterson – who is a devout Scientologist – has pleaded not guilty to raping three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003
A judge on Tuesday refused to delay the rape trial of That ’70s Show star Danny Masterson over anti-Church of Scientology barbs two candidates have been lobbing at each other in TV ads supporting their opposing campaigns to win the Los Angeles mayoral election.
Jury selection for the trial is now scheduled to start next Tuesday at LA Superior Court’s downtown criminal court where the Scientologist actor, 46, has pleaded not guilty to raping three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003.
But his legal team filed a motion calling on Judge Charlaine Olmedo to postpone the trial until after the November 8 mayoral election, arguing that a jury could be prejudiced against Masterson by ‘inflammatory’ and ‘negative’ remarks both candidates have made in campaign ads condemning Scientology.
Judge Olmedo rejected that argument, telling the court that the ‘sheer size’ of the jury catchment area – LA county and its 88 independent cities – is ‘sufficient to ensure a fair and impartial jury.’
‘There is no evidence to suggest that everyone holds a negative view of Scientology,’ she said.
A judge on Tuesday refused to delay the rape trial of That ’70s Show star Danny Masterson. Masterson is seen leaving court Monday
Masterson’s accusers are former Scientologists and are also suing him and the Church of Scientology in civil court
Masterson’s lawyer Philip Cohen asked the judge to delay the trial until after the Los Angeles mayoral race on November 8. In one campaign TV ad, candidate Rick Caruso used footage of his opponent Karen Bass at a Scientology event and splices in clips that seem to indicate that she supports the controversial church. Bass responded in her own ad, saying she does not support the church and insisted, ‘Everybody knows Karen Bass condemns Scientology’
Referring to the campaign ads from U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and billionaire developer Rick Caruso, the judge added that even if the court were to continue the trial till after the election, ‘the public would still have been exposed to them.’
Judge Olmedo also handed down a second defeat for Masterson – who showed up for court Tuesday in a gray suit, blue shirt and black and gray striped tie – by denying his motion to exclude all references to Scientology from the trial, which is expected to last four weeks.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo denied Masterson’s request to delay his trial on Tuesday
Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, had asserted Monday that references to Scientology would be ‘irrelevant, inflammatory, confusing to the jury and violate his client’s First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights’.
But the judge disagreed, telling the court, ‘There is no evidence to support the contention that a negative view is inadmissible (at trial).
‘Even evidence that is prejudiced is still admissible if it is relevant… And Scientology evidence is relevant.’
Judge Olmedo said that Scientology evidence was relevant because it was important to the credibility of the three accusers and explained why they took so many years to report Masterson to the police: they were afraid of retaliation from the Church.
She added, ‘There is no basis to consider that Scientology evidence is so inflammatory that no jury could reach an impartial verdict.’
As for Cohen’s claim that bringing the name Scientology into the trial would ‘infringe’ upon Masterson’s First Amendment rights to practice a religion of his own choosing, the Judge said, ‘Nothing I rule upon would interfere with his right to believe in Scientology…Scientology evidence will be admitted.’
Masterson – who has been free on $3.3 million bail since his arrest in June 2020 – did score one small win today with the judge excluding a former Scientologist, who described herself as someone who had ‘escaped’ the controversial church, from testifying for the prosecution as an expert witness.
The defense had objected to the ex-Church member, saying she was ‘biased’ and not qualified to be an expert witness.
Masterson’s accusers – whom DailyMail.com is identifying only as Jane Does 1 through 3 – are all former Scientologists and are also suing him and the Church of Scientology in civil court, claiming they’ve been harassed and intimidated since reporting the actor to police.
Both candidates – Rick Caruso and Karen Bass – have bashed the Church of Scientology in television ads
Bass has come under criticism in the past for attending a Scientology event and put out a statement in 2020, saying, ‘Everyone is now aware of the allegations against Scientology’
In the criminal rape case, at a three-day pre-trial hearing in May last year, all three broke down in tears as they took the witness stand to give harrowing and wrenching accounts of being raped by Masterson.
Jane Doe 1 told how he threw her in his Jacuzzi, raped her and then pulled a gun on her, telling her, ‘Don’t say a f***ing word. You’re not going to tell anybody.’
Jane Doe 2 described how he ‘ravaged her like a rag doll and pounded her from behind like a jackhammer.’
Jane Doe 3 recounted how she woke up naked to find Masterson raping her and when she tried to fight him off, he hit her and spit on her, calling her ‘white trash’.
The three said before each alleged rape, Masterson gave them a drink after which they felt ‘blurry’ and disoriented.
At Monday’s hearing, Masterson’s attorney, Cohen, contended that the Bass and Caruso campaign TV ads that are critical of Scientology could bias a jury against his client because of his membership in the Church.
In one ad, Caruso used footage of Bass at a Scientology event, splicing in clips that seem to show she supports the controversial church. Bass responded in her own ad, saying she does not support the church and insisting, ‘Everybody knows Karen Bass condemns Scientology.’
Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, had asserted Monday that references to Scientology would be ‘irrelevant, inflammatory, confusing to the jury and violate his client’s First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights’
Masterson (left second row) played wise-cracking Steven Hyde on That ’70s Show from 1998 to 2006
One thing both candidates do agree on is that ‘they don’t like Scientology,’ Cohen told the court. ‘The public is being inundated with this (campaign ads) – it is a significant problem for Mr. Masterson.’
He called the ads ‘horrible timing for the defense’, adding that any moves the Democratic mayoral candidates, make ‘to distance themselves from Scientology, give them a better chance of being elected mayor of Los Angeles.
‘There is a really negative view of Scientology and every time Scientology is mentioned, it becomes harder and harder for Mr. Masterson to have a fair trial.’
Telling the court that the general public’s view of Scientology is ‘more negative than any other religion’, Cohen added. ‘There is a significant chance of prejudice in bringing Scientology into this case.’
Prosecutor Reinhold Mueller defended his intention to bring Scientology evidence into the trial saying, ‘Scientology is not on trial here. But there will be aspects of Scientology that will come in here that will explain what happened.
‘There would be so much that would be inexplicable to the jury if they didn’t know the Scientology context that we’re talking about.
‘Scientology has been part of their lives,’ added Mueller who explained that the alleged victims were afraid of retribution from the Church which they believed did not allow them to report a fellow church member to the police.
They feared that if they did, family and friends still in the Church would turn their backs on them, he said.
Last year at Masterson’s pre-trial hearing, Judge Olmedo criticized the Church for it’s ‘written doctrine that not only discourages but prohibits’ a Scientologist from reporting another church member to the police.
And she said that the church’s ‘expressly written doctrine sufficiently explains the hesitancy and lateness’ in reporting the alleged rapes.’
Source: Read Full Article