Q: Masterson rape case marred by controversy
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rape allegations against actor Danny Masterson were so riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies that prosecutors in their case enlisted the Church of Scientology to help patch holes in his case, a defense lawyer said in closing arguments Tuesday.
“When there is conflict and inconsistency – blame others,” says attorney Philip Cohen. “We’ve heard Scientology so many times that it really has become an excuse.”
The three accused and Masterson were members of the church at the time of the charges two decades ago when the actor was at the height of his fame on the sitcom “That Decade Show” and Scientology loomed large in the trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.
“There are no charges against Scientology but you can’t avoid it,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said in his rebuttal argument.
Mueller said the women delayed reporting the allegations because church rules prevented them from going to law enforcement and if they told anyone else what happened, they would be excommunicated.
Although Masterson remains a member of the church, the three women are not. They are afraid to testify because they have faced harassment, intimidation and stalking after reporting crimes, Mueller said.
If the statements by the women are all consistent then it indicates that they were scripted, Mueller said. She said victims of sexual assault often have inconsistencies when they have to relive their ordeal when talking to the police for the first time.
“They have to reach inside themselves and bring out the pain and trauma that’s buried inside themselves,” Muller says. “You might find some inconsistencies there.”
Masterson, wearing a brown tweed suit, looked at the jury from the defense table with no visible reaction. His wife, actor and model Bijou Phillips, sat behind him at the front of the gallery, along with family members and friends.
Jurors were deliberately briefed at the end of the day before adjourning. The panel of seven women and five men returned to court on Wednesday morning.
Masterson, 46, faces three counts of forcible rape. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in state prison.
The women testified that Masterson raped them between 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood Hills home. The defense said the acts were consensual.
Testimony by the women – all referred to as Jane Doze 1-3 – was graphic and emotional. A woman, a friend of Masterson’s personal assistant, said she vomited and passed out after he gave her the mixed drink. She said she regained consciousness to find Masterson having rough and painful sex with her.
One of Masterson’s ex-girlfriends said he woke her up to have sex with her without her consent.
Masterson did not testify and his attorney did not present any defense evidence, instead focusing on how the women’s stories changed over time.
“The key to this case is not when they reported it,” Cohen said. “That’s what they said when they reported. What they said after being told this. And what they said at trial.”
He said prosecutors’ portrayal of Masterson as a “commanding, intimidating, abusive monster” was undermined by the testimony of his ex-girlfriend who said she willingly had sex with him after the alleged rape.
“I get the theme: paint Danny as a monster. But when you look at the actual evidence it tells us something different,” Cohen said. “That’s the problem when you start moving away from the truth.”
Mueller told jurors to stick with the evidence and not be swayed by what he called speculation by the defense.
He mocked a statement by Cohen when he told jurors they could acquit Masterson if they felt he “actually and reasonably believed” the women consented to sex.
Mueller said no one would believe the acts described were consensual. He reminded them that a woman repeatedly told Masterson “no,” pulled her hair and tried to get out from under her.
Another woman said Masterson helped her throw up by putting his finger down her throat, then told her she was disgusting and made her shower because he vomited in her hair, Mueller said.
“Then he laid her on the bed, turned her over and went with her,” Mueller said. “There is not a reasonable belief (he) consented. Absolutely not.”
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