That ’70s Show star Danny Masterson was arraigned on three rape charges today at a downtown Los Angeles criminal court.
The 44 year-old actor and prominent Scientologist didn’t show up at LA Superior Court where he’s accused of raping three women in separate incidents at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003.
But his lawyer, Tom Mesereau, was in court today and answered ‘Yes, your honor’ when Judge Sergio Tapia asked if his celebrity client pleaded ‘not guilty’ to all the charges.
Mesereau told the court, ‘These allegations are 20 years old…..We think the case is absurd and the charges are absolutely false.’
Danny Masterson’s lawyer entered a plea of ‘not guilty’ Wednesday as the TV star was arraigned on rape charges
Attorney Tom Mesereau slammed the case as ‘absurd’ and noted the allegations are nearly 20 years old
Masterson and Mesereau appear in court together in September. Masterson wasn’t present on Wednesday, under a special COVID-19 waiver
The veteran attorney – who defended Michael Jackson when the pop star was charged with child molestation – asked the judge to ban the press from covering today’s hearing, arguing that Masterson would not get a fair trial because a jury could be ‘tainted’ by publicity about the case,
The judge turned down Mesereau’s request and allowed reporters to stay.
Meanwhile Masterson remains free on the $3.3 million bail he’s been on since his arrest last June. The TV star’s next court date will be a preliminary hearing on March 24.
In normal, non-pandemic circumstances, a person facing such serious charges would be required to be at his arraignment.
But Masterson was able to skip court today under a special Covid 19 waiver that allows defendants not to appear in person.
At one of four earlier hearings, Mesereau claimed the charges against Masterson were ‘politically motivated’ by then LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who was using this high-profile case to help her win re-election last November. But Lacey lost to challenger George Gascon.
Masterson also faces a suit by four women who say he drugged and assaulted them at his home in the early 2000s. Two of the women named in the suit were Masterson’s ex-girlfriends – Chrissie Bixler and Bobette Riales. Pictured; Masterson (right) and Bixler when they were dating in the early 2000s
Masterson (left) and Riales at Entertainment Weekly’s 2nd Annual It List Party in New York, June 2003
The suit also named the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige as defendants
Mesereau – tried to get the rape charges dismissed, claiming that the alleged crimes are beyond the statute of limitations, a ‘lack of due diligence’ in the police investigations, some witnesses are dead and others have faded memories.
But another judge – ruling that the rape charges are not covered by the statute of limitations – denied the motion to dismiss the charges.
Masterson – who has been married to actress and model Bijou Phillips since 2011 – stands charged with raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001, raping a 28-year-old woman in April 2003, and raping another 23 year-old woman between October and December 2003.
He was also accused of sexual assault in two other cases but the DA’s office said they declined to file charges on those, one for insufficient evidence and the other based on the statute of limitations.
In 2019, four women – including the three alleged victims in the criminal case – filed a civil lawsuit against Masterson, claiming he drugged, raped and sexually assaulted them in the early 2000s.
The lawsuit also named the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige as defendants, claiming the women were stalked in a ‘conspiracy to cover up that Daniel Masterson sexually assaulted four young women’.
Two of the women named in the suit were Masterson’s ex-girlfriends – Chrissie Bixler and Bobette Riales – while the other two are listed as Jane Does.
Bixler is being lent support by actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who left the religion and is now one of its harshest critics, campaigning vehemently against it with a reality TV show called Scientology and the Aftermath. Remini was at Masterson’s criminal court hearing last October.
In the civil lawsuit, the alleged victims’ lawyer said, ‘When those women came forward to report Masterson’s crimes the Defendants (The Church of Scientology) conspired to and systematically stalked, harassed, invaded their and their family’s privacy, and intentionally caused them emotional distress to silence and intimidate them.’
Masterson has been married to actress Bijou Phillips since 2011
Masterson, as Steven Hyde on That ’70s Show, faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison
Masterson – who played wise-cracking Steven Hyde on That ‘70s Show from 1998 to 2006 – called the lawsuit against him and the Church of Scientology a ‘shameful money grab’.
In statement to DailyMail.com, the Church of Scientology called the lawsuit ‘baseless’ and the claims ‘ludicrous and a sham’.
‘It’s a dishonest and hallucinatory publicity stunt. Leah Remini is taking advantage of these people as pawns in her moneymaking scam.’
Last month, a judge ruled that because three of the four women suing Masterson are or were Scientologists, they would have to settle their lawsuit through Church of Scientology arbitration. The judge still has to decide if the fourth woman can pursue her case through the law courts.
If convicted, Masterson faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison, according to an official release.