Danny Masterson Gets 30 to Life
It was the early 2000s, and Danny Masterson was at the height of his fame. His portrayal of the acerbic and irascible character Steven Hyde on the smash hit sitcom "That '70s Show" had earned him praise, acclaim, and around $250,000 to $300,000 per episode. He had a nice home in Hollywood. A promising career. The full faith and protection of the Church of Scientology. Masterson was set up to be the master of his destiny, one of the very few among us with the opportunity to live well and do good on his own terms.
Masterson did choose to live on his own terms, but, like the namesake of his character on "That '70s Show," he didn't choose to do good. He chose to be a predator.
I Learned it From Watching You
Allegations of abuse and sexual assault have been a Hollywood mainstay for over a century. And, much like the blockbusters that many of the accused produced or acted in, they've often rhymed with the incidents that preceded and followed.
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was accused of forcing himself on the actress Virginia Rappe after getting her violently drunk. She died days later. Patricia Douglas alleged that she was force-fed alcohol and then violently assaulted by an employee at Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM) studios. Judy Garland was famously affected by the abuse she suffered at the hands of studio executives who plied her with drugs and alcohol while she was still practically a child. Bill Cosby was found guilty of drugging and assaulting numerous women over his decades-long career. Roman Polanski drugged and raped a then 13-year-old girl.
Hollywood managed to protect its talent from the consequences of their actions for decades. Cases were dropped, careers were ended, perpetrators were exonerated, and victims were blacklisted for daring to challenge the powerful men who had victimized them. That began to change in October 2017, when allegations against prolific producer and even more prolific sexual predator Harvey Weinstein began to receive media attention.
Weinstein's sinister reputation was something of an open secret in the entertainment industry, but he'd somehow managed to get away with his crimes for years. Perhaps he was too connected, too powerful, or too prone to making other powerful people a lot of money for anyone to dare to bring formal charges against him. So when the dam finally broke and the accusations flooded in, something changed.
Call it #metoo, call it the Weinstein Effect, or just call it long-deserved justice. Whatever its name, the phenomenon that began with the fall of Harvey Weinstein swept across the world, emboldening victim after victim to come forward, tell their stories, and ultimately get some measure of justice.
Three of the victims came forward separately to tell very similar stories: It was the early 2000s, and Danny Masterson was at the height of his fame. He used that fame – and their mutual connections to the Church of Scientology – to bring them to the lovely Hollywood home he'd bought thanks to "That '70s Show," where he'd done what so many evil actors had done before him. He drugged them, he raped them, and then went on with his life, leaving the victims to put theirs back together.
Justice At Last
Masterson escaped punishment for his crimes for over 17 years, and he came close to escaping it altogether. Though charges first dropped in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and various stalling tactics employed by Masterson's lawyers managed to get his trial pushed back until late 2022. Jurors at the initial trial couldn't agree on whether to convict or acquit – though reports say they initially leaned strongly toward acquittal – and the judge was forced to declare a mistrial.
The second trial ended at the end of May 2023 with a vote to convict Masterson on two of three counts of rape. The jury could not reach a verdict on the third count. His defense asked for the sentences for both convictions to be run simultaneously for a total of 15 years to life. The judge rejected the motion, instead sentencing Masterson to 30 years to life with the potential for parole after 25.5 years in prison.
Masterson's defense plans to appeal the decision.
- What Can You Do About Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life blog)
- Sexual Assault Overview (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Time Limits for Charges: State Criminal Statutes of Limitations (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Sexual Assault Sentencing and Penalties (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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