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Judge rejects actor Danny Masterson’s bid to toss one of three rape charges

Masterson's attorney had argued that the 16-year delay in prosecuting the felony case hurt his client's ability to mount a defense.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A Los Angeles County judge on Thursday rejected actor Danny Masterson's request to drop one of three counts of rape he faces ahead of a criminal set for October.

Police charged Masterson in June 2020 with three counts of felony rape "by force or fear" prosecutors say took place in the early 2000's, when Masterson was starring in the popular sitcom "That '70's Show." Masterson has pleaded not guilty and denies any wrongdoing.

Jen B. testified at Masterson's preliminary trial that she attended a party at the actor's home in April 2003. She was given a mixed drink, which she said made her feel sick, and that Masterson carried her to a bathtub, bathed her, then carried her to his bed where he then forcibly raped her. She also said Masterson threatened her with a gun.

Police first investigated the incident in June 2004, but the district attorney at the time decided not to press charges. That 16-year delay, Masterson's lawyer Phillip Cohen argued, had the effect of irreparably harming Masterson's ability to defend himself against the charges.

To bolster his case, Cohen cited a newly unearthed piece of evidence: a seven-page, single-spaced, typewritten fax sent by Jen B.'s father, identified by Cohen as Bill B. Cohen said that in the fax, Bill B. directly contradicts his daughter's story. According to Cohen, Bill B. wrote that Masterson gave his daughter a drug to render her unconscious and then had sex with her — a crime, to be sure, but not the one Masterson is charged with.

"In the letter," Cohen told the court, "there is no mention of any physical force used by Masterson to effectuate the rape. There's no mention of a gun. There's no mention of bruising."

Bill B. has since died. Cohen argued the delay in prosecuting Masterson hurt his client's case because they can no longer call Bill B. as a witness whose testimony may have contradicted that of his daughter. Cohen said Bill B. would have been "the most critical witness to this case," since most of the other witnesses that will be called by the defense belong to the Church of Scientology, as does Masterson.

"Every defense witness seems to be pooh-poohed because of their relationship with Scientology," Cohen said.

Cohen also cited the death of another witness and other witness' foggy memories as reasons the delay in prosecution put his client at a disadvantage.

"There's absolutely no reason this case couldn't have been tried in 2004," Cohen said. "I've tried many cases with less."

LA County Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said the newly unearthed seven-page fax was "completely inadmissible," since it is undated and unsigned. And he said Jen B. may have had a reason to not be completely truthful with her father, pointing out that at the time of the alleged rape, both Jen B. and her father were members of the Church of Scientology.

"She risked being declared a suppressive person and being separated from her parents," Mueller said.

As to why the prosecution was delayed for so long, Mueller said, "The filing deputy felt there was insufficient evidence. That all changed when additional victims came forward."

LA County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo said that it was mere speculation to argue that the delay in prosecution had hurt the defense's case — that is, it was speculation to assume that Bill B. and other witnesses would have contradicted Jen B.

"Bill B.'s testimony could have cut for or against the defense," Olmedo said, adding that even if the defense's case was hurt by the delay the "strong public interest in prosecuting the case outweighs that prejudice."

And with that, she denied Masterson's motion.

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