A judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday after jurors said they were hopelessly stuck during the trial of That 1970s show actor Danny Masterson, who was accused of three rapes.
Los Angeles Supreme Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo had ordered jurors to take Thanksgiving week off and continue to deliberate after telling her Friday that after a month-long trial in which the Church of Scientology played a supporting role.
Masterson, 46, was charged with the rape of three women, including an ex-girlfriend, at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. He pleaded not guilty and his attorney said the acts were all consensual. All three women were members of the Church at the time, and Masterson is still one.
“I think the jurors are hopelessly deadlocked,” the judge said after asking if there was anything the court could do to bring them closer to a unanimous decision. She set a March date for a new trial.
Jurors said they voted seven times on Tuesday and Wednesday without agreeing on any of the three counts.
The jury presiding judge said only two jurors voted for conviction on the first count, four voted for conviction on the second count, and five voted for conviction on the third count.
Jurors were forced to start deliberations from scratch on Monday when two had to be fired for dealing with COVID-19. They deliberated for two days, but still failed to reach a verdict.
The result was a serious setback for prosecutors and for the three women who said they had been seeking justice for a long time.
The proceedings came amid a flurry of cases on both coasts with #MeToo connotations, including the Los Angeles trial of Harvey Weinstein just down the aisle from Masterson’s. In New York, Kevin Spacey won a sexual misconduct lawsuit brought by actor Anthony Rapp in New York, and a jury ordered director and screenwriter Paul Haggis to pay $10 million US in a civil suit there.
But in the Masterson trial, as in the Haggis trial, the #MeToo implications were largely overshadowed by Scientology, despite the judge’s insistence that the Church would not become a de facto defendant.
The women, all named Jane Does and all former members of the church, said they were harassed, harassed and stalked after Masterson was charged. They have repeated those allegations in a pending lawsuit against the church.
Masterson attorney Philip Cohen said the church was mentioned 700 times during the trial and argued it became an excuse 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’s why it took 20 years for the case to go to trial.