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‘That ’70s Show’ actor Danny Masterson found guilty of rape

The actor went on trial for a second time on the rape charges after the jury deadlocked last year and the judge had declared a mistrial.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Actor Danny Masterson was found guilty of raping two women in 2003 and faces 30 years to life in prison, according to a statement Wednesday from the LA County district attorney's office.

The former "That '70s Show" actor was put on trial a second time because a jury failed to reach a verdict at his first trial last year. The retrial yielded another deadlock on the charge that Masterson had raped a third woman.

“We want to express our gratitude to the three women who came forward and bravely shared their experiences,” District Attorney George Gascón said. “While we are disappointed that the jury did not convict on all counts, we respect their decision. The verdicts handed down by the jury in this case were undoubtedly a difficult one to reach and we thank the jurors for their service."

Masterson's attorney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict.

Masterson, 47, was convicted of two counts of rape by force or fear. He was remanded into custody after the verdict was returned and is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 4.

The two rapes occurred at Masterson's home at the time he was starring in the popular sitcom "That '70s Show." In April 2003, he raped a 28-year-old woman and sometime between October and December of that year he sexually assaulted a 23-year-old woman who he had invited to his Hollywood Hills home, according to the DA's statement.

One of his victims testified 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 unsuccessfully argued last year, had the effect of irreparably harming Masterson's ability to defend himself against the charges.

All three of Masterson’s accusers were members of the Church of Scientology at the time they say they were raped, but have since left. Masterson remains a member. California Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo said before the trial that she would not allow Scientology to become a de facto defendant, but would allow limited discussion of it.

The Church of Scientology said in a statement late Wednesday that the prosecution’s introduction of religion into the trial was "an unprecedented violation of the First Amendment and affects the due process rights of every American."

"The Church was not a party to this case and religion did not belong in this proceeding as Supreme Court precedent has maintained for centuries," the statement said. "The Church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone—Scientologists or not—to law enforcement. Quite the opposite, Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land."

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Categories / Criminal, Entertainment, Trials

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