Fourth woman to testify at Danny Masterson rape trial

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LOS ANGELES — The judge in the rape trial of “That ‘70s Show” star Danny Masterson dealt the defense a potential setback Monday by allowing a fourth woman who says she was assaulted by the actor to testify.

Masterson, 46, is charged with raping three women between 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood Hills home. His trial started Oct. 18.

“I feel sandbagged,” defense attorney Philp Cohen said after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo said she would allow prosecutors to put the witness, identified as Jane Doe #4, on the stand.

Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller argued that Cohen opened the door by suggesting that Masterson’s three accusers, all former members of the Church of Scientology, colluded against the actor, who still belongs to the church.

Jane Doe #4 was not in cahoots with Masterson’s accusers or a Scientologist, Mueller said. He said the jury should be aware there is another woman “out there with similar experience with Mr. Masterson who also was interviewed” by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Masterson has not been charged in the fourth alleged assault.

Olmedo agreed and denied Cohen’s request for a mistrial. The judge had initially barred the testimony of Jane Doe #4, who told police she was sexually assaulted by Masterson in 1996.

“The defense is now saying the victims are almost exclusively focused on a monetary motive and is focused on collusion and changing statements,” the judge said. “But besides that change, what is almost important to the court, the defense was almost exclusively focused on consent.” 

The developments came on day 16 of the closely watched trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Masterson, 46, has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to three counts of forcible rape. He remains free on $3.3 million bail.

Throughout the trial, the jury has heard graphic testimony from the three accusers, one of whom is a former longtime girlfriend.

“This is not going to be a trial on Scientology,” Olmedo warned at a pretrial hearing for Masterson, although she allowed the accusers to cite the church as a reason they waited to report the alleged rapes.

But legal analysts told NBC News earlier that Scientology looms large over the proceedings.

Two of Masterson’s three accusers have testified that they were rebuffed when they told church officials he had raped them and said that they were subjected to stalking and other acts of retaliation after they reported the alleged assaults to police.

Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw stated last week that the church “has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of Scientologists, or of anyone, to law enforcement.”

“Quite the opposite,” Pouw wrote. “Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land.”

Pouw also insisted Jane Doe #3 never reported a sexual assault to the church and accused her, the two other Jane Does, and former Scientologist and actress Leah Remini of making “false allegations of harassment” against the church in a civil complaint

Remini is an outspoken critic of the religion that counts among its members Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley.

Last week, when Jane Doe #2 testified, Cohen’s colleague Karen Goldstein complained to the judge that the three dozen Tweets that Remini posted about the trial and defense strategy in recent days “makes it exceedingly difficult for Mr. Masterson to get a fair trial.”

Masterson’s defense team asked for a mistrial, and Olmedo denied the request.

Scientology was started in 1952 by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The religion asserts in its official statements of beliefs that man is an immortal spiritual being with unlimited capabilities, and it offers, for a price, one-on-one “auditing” and classes designed to help members achieve a “clear” spiritual state. It strongly opposes the science of psychiatry as “disastrous.”

Masterson has been married to actress Bijou Phillips since 2011 and she is an active member of the Church of Scientology. She has also been a constant presence at her husband’s trial.

Dua Anjam and Diana Dasrath reported from Los Angeles, Corky Siemaszko from New York City





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