Closing arguments are expected to begin Tuesday at the second trial of That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson, who is charged with raping three women at his Los Angeles home between 2001 and 2003.
Lawyers for both sides rested their cases Friday, three weeks into the trial. Masterson’s defence lawyer declined to call any witnesses.
The 47-year-old’s first trial ended in a mistrial in December, with jurors hopelessly deadlocked on all three counts.
The actor has pleaded not guilty. He could get 45 years in prison if convicted on all three counts.
Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo has allowed the prosecution to directly say that Masterson drugged each of the victims. Olmedo only allowed secondary evidence of it at the first trial.
The Church of Scientology has played an even larger role in the second trial than it did in the first; Masterson is a member of the church, and all three women in the trial are former members, but the church itself is not a defendant in the trial.
The judge allowed a former member of the church’s leadership to testify as an expert on the institution’s policies about going to police. The plaintiffs claimed church officials kept them from going to authorities with their accusations about Masterson. The church has denied having any policies forbidding members from reporting other members to law enforcement.
Last week, a courtroom controversy broke out during the trial over an unaffiliated Scientology lawyer apparently having possession of trial evidence. Deputy DA Reinhold Mueller told the court that he received an email on May 2 from a lawyer belonging to the church, Vicki Podberesky, that contained 12 files of discovery material from the ongoing trial. The email criticized the retrial, though the discovery material attached was intended only to be seen by the prosecution, defence lawyers and the court. It is unclear where the alleged leak came from.
Actor Leah Remini, a former Scientologist, said she has been visiting the Los Angeles courtroom throughout the trial. The retrial has garnered ample attention from the public in part because of Remini’s outspoken commentary.
She shared news of the alleged discovery material leak to Twitter on Thursday and wrote that the church had “no reason at all” to possess the information.
“Scientology, which SHOULD be a co-defendant in this trial, has repeatedly lied, saying it has no covert involvement in this trial,” Remini, 52, accused in a long thread.
3. Scientology has no reason to have criminal discovery materials in its possession.
No reason at all.
Scientology, which SHOULD be a co-defendant in this trial, has repeatedly lied, saying it has no covert involvement in this trial.
— Leah Remini (@LeahRemini) May 11, 2023
Remini, who left the Church of Scientology in 2013, said the apparent leak is proof the church is “colluding” with Masterson and his lawyers.
“There is nothing Scientology and Scientologists won’t do to infiltrate government offices, organizations, and institutions,” she wrote. “There’s nothing Scientology won’t do to obtain the intel it needs to protect itself. It has literally been Scientology policy for seven decades.”
Earlier, Remini also claimed the church attempted to have her removed from the courtroom when the trial began three weeks ago.
1. Today I attended the opening arguments in the rape trial of celebrity Scientologist Danny Masterson.
I attended to show my support for the women who were not only brutally raped by Danny but then subjected to years of harassment by Scientology.
— Leah Remini (@LeahRemini) April 25, 2023
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller will be first to give a closing argument in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom Tuesday morning. He will try to convince the jury to unanimously convict Masterson after failing to get even half of the jurors at the first trial to vote guilty on any count.
— With files from Global News’ Sarah Do Couto
© 2023 The Canadian Press