West News Wire: Danny Masterson, an American actor best known for portraying Steven Hyde on the enduring US comedy “That 70s Show,” was sentenced to 30 years to life in jail on Thursday after being found guilty in May of raping two women in his Los Angeles home 20 years earlier.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo of the Los Angeles Superior Court granted 47-year-old Masterson two consecutive terms of 15 years each. Masterson’s attorneys were unsuccessful in their attempts to have the two convictions run simultaneously and to have a new trial held.
“Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here,” Judge Olmedo said in court after hearing emotional statements from the women at the center of the case. “Your actions 20 years ago took away another person’s choice and voice. Your actions 20 years ago today were criminal, and that’s why you are here.”
In May, a jury found Masterson guilty of two counts of rape following seven days of deliberation. A verdict could not be reached on a third count which alleged that Masterson had also raped a former girlfriend.
The two victims said throughout the trial that Masterson gave them alcohol at his house in the Hollywood area in 2003, which led to their passing out or becoming wobbly before he forcefully assaulted them sexually. The assaults happened when Masterson was at the height of his celebrity from the Fox sitcom “That 70s Show,” in which he played a major role from 1998 to 2006.
One of the women addressed Masterson in court on Thursday as part of a victim impact statement, saying, “You relish in hurting women.” You are addicted to it. It is without a doubt your favourite activity.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors had argued that Masterson had used his status as a prominent member of the Church of Scientology to avoid accountability for his actions. The three women who were all members of the church at the time – each testified in court that they had been discouraged from notifying police by figures in the church.
In a statement, the Church of Scientology said it had “no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone Scientologists or not to law enforcement.”
Hailing the verdict, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon said that “justice was finally served,” and added that his top priority was to “ensure that Los Angeles will no longer be a hunting ground for Hollywood elites who feel entitled to prey on women.”
Masterson maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings and his attorneys have indicated that they plan to appeal the sentence.