Judge declares mistrial in actor Danny Masterson's rape trial

Jurors said they could not reach a consensus on the charges after a month-long trial

A judge announced a mistrial on Wednesday after jurors said they had reached an impasse in the trial of '70s Show actor Danny Masterson, who was charged with three counts of rape.

Los Angeles Judge Charlaine F Olmedo has ordered jurors to take Thanksgiving week off and continue deliberating after they informed her Nov. 18 that they could not reach a consensus on the rape charge following a month-long trial in which the Church of Scientology played out. support role.

Masterson, 46, was charged with raping three women, including an ex-girlfriend, at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. He has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers say all the acts were consensual. All three women were members of the church at the time and Masterson remained one.

"I find the jurors deadlocked," Judge Charlaine Olmedo said after asking if there was anything the court could do to get them closer to reaching a unanimous decision. He set a March date for the retrial.

The jury said they had voted seven times on Tuesday and Wednesday without being able to reach a consensus on any of the three charges.

The jury foreman said only two jurors voted for a verdict on the first count, four voted for a verdict on the second count and five voted to convict on the third count.

The jurors were forced to start deliberations from scratch on Monday when two had to be dismissed due to contracting Covid-19. They negotiated for two days but still could not reach a verdict.

The result is a serious setback for prosecutors and for three women who say they are seeking long overdue justice.

The proceedings took place amid a flurry of cases on both coasts with #MeToo connotations, including the Harvey Weinstein trial in Los Angeles down the hall from Masterson's. In New York, Kevin Spacey won a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by actor Anthony Rapp in New York, and a jury ordered director and screenwriter Paul Haggis to pay $10 million in a civil case there.

But at the Masterson trial, as at the Haggis trial, the implications of #MeToo were largely overshadowed by the specter of Scientology, despite the judge's insistence that the church not become the de facto defendant.

The women, all identified as Jane Does and all former members of the church, said they were intimidated, harassed and followed after Masterson was charged. They have repeated the accusations in pending lawsuits against the church.

Masterson's lawyer Philip Cohen said the church was mentioned 700 times during the trial and argued that it was the reason for the prosecution's failure to build a credible case against Masterson, a prominent Scientologist.

But deputy district attorney Reinhold Mueller said the church had tried to silence the women and that was the reason the case had taken two decades to come to trial.

Masterson did not testify. Her lawyer provided no defense testimony and instead focused on inconsistencies in the reports of the three accusers, who she said changed their stories from time to time and spoke to each other before going to police.

Cohen told the jurors they could acquit Masterson if they thought he "really and reasonably believed" the women had agreed to have sex. Mueller countered that no one would believe the acts described were consensual, reminding jurors that a woman repeatedly told him "no", grabbed his hair and tried to get out from under him.

Mueller told jurors not to be swayed by the defense's speculation and said the contradictions in the victims' testimony were a sign of authenticity that contradicted the reports that had been written.

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