(VitalNews.org) – The actor largely known for his role in famous comedy, ‘That 70’s Show’, has been given a sentence of 30 years in prison after being convicted of two counts of rape. Danny Masterson, who played Steven Hyde in the popular series, pled not guilty to three charges of rape after being accused by ex-girlfriend Chrissie Carnell-Bixler and two unnamed women.
The accusations first surfaced in 2017 during the peak of the #MeToo movement, which saw many women in the entertainment industry make claims of inappropriate behavior and even sexual abuse. The allegations against Masterson related to assaults committed at his home between 2001 and 2003, in which he was accused of drugging and raping his victims. Two other allegations made against him were not subject to charges by prosecutors due to lack of evidence and the restrictions imposed by the statute of limitations. Some of the alleged victims say that they wanted to come forward about their assaults earlier but were persuaded against doing so by authorities within the Church of Scientology, of which they and Masterson were all members.
One woman claimed that Scientology officials pressured her to sign a non-disclosure agreement and to accept a pay-off of $400,000 instead of reporting the attack to police. She said that they threatened to expel her from the Church unless she complied. Another woman said that her own mother, also a Scientologist, disowned her and refuses to speak to her, saying that although she wanted Masterson to be imprisoned, she was angry that by speaking out, her daughter caused harm to the Church of Scientology. A statement released by the Church has denied all wrongdoing and claims that members are not discouraged from reporting ay legal matters to the appropriate authorities.
Masterson chose not to testify or call witnesses during the course of his trial, although his team of lawyers plans to appeal the verdict, claiming that substantial errors were made and that the guilty verdicts were not corroborated by the available evidence. Masterson’s wife, Bijou Phillips, begged the court for leniency in sentencing and spoke of his importance in her life and in their 9-year-old daughter’s life. Masterson was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment, with the possibility of life-long incarceration. He must serve at least 25 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole, although his legal team claim they are confident that they will have his guilty verdict overturned.
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