Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Wrote Letters of Support for Danny Masterson. Do Those Ever Help With Sentencing?
Actor Danny Masterson has been convicted of rape and sentenced to 30 years to life. He became popular due to his work on the sitcom “That 70s Show," which also starred Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis in an ensemble cast.
Kutcher and Kunis drafted letters of support for the court describing positive aspects of Masterson's personality, in hopes that showing his good character would reduce his potential sentence.
Wildly Differing Accounts
The victims described Masterson as a “pathetic, disturbed and completely violent" man who showed no remorse for what he did. In addition, they affirmed their wish that Hollywood's elite would no longer feel entitled to take advantage of women. They all agreed on how the defendant's actions had a negative impact on their lives, causing them to lose their relationships, ability to work, and even the desire to live.
On the other hand, the actors described the defendant in their letters as a person of “genuine nature" and “inner kindness," who always treated people with “decency, equality and generosity." Ultimately, the court was unswayed, and Masterson was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for drugging and raping two women between 2001 and 2003.
What Are Letters of Support?
Character letters are used as a tool for people who have been convicted of criminal charges and are awaiting sentencing. They address the judge handling the case, and seek to show a humanitarian side of the accused, regardless of the criminal act. The purpose is to explain that there is more to see in that person than a mistake made at a specific moment. Generally, they should be written by people who have known the accused very well and for a long time, such as friends and family.
Are Letters of Support Really Useful?
A letter of support can benefit a defendant as long as it is drafted correctly. Furthermore, a judge will not want to receive many letters from different people on behalf of the defendant who say practically the same thing. For a letter to truly have a positive effect in minimizing a sentence, it is important to take certain points into account:
- They must come from someone who really knows the accused.
- It is recommended to write specific and brief anecdotes. These actions must show moments of exemplary behavior by the accused.
- All stories must be true and limited to facts known to the person writing them.
Letters of support generally will not be grounds for an acquittal. Letters of support do not address guilt or innocence but rather seek to establish positive aspects of the accused that justify not giving a maximum sentence for the crime in question. Also, keep in mind that judges use various factors when determining sentencing, not just "good character."
If you or a loved one are facing criminal proceedings, a criminal attorney can help you review these letters so they have the greatest impact possible.
The Consequences for Ashton and Mila
These letters of support certainly damaged the image of the actors, who received strong criticism for defending a person convicted of rape crimes. Many critics claim that their words minimized the victims' grief and that even though Masterson was a great friend to them, that does not take away from the seriousness of his actions toward the victims. The same person can be a great father and friend to some — and a rapist to others. The acting couple shared a public video apology in this regard, stating that the purpose of the letters was for the judge to read them, not to minimize the victims' testimony or re-traumatize them in any way. Additionally, they ended up leaving their positions at "Thorn," the anti-abuse nonprofit they were involved in. Kutcher stated that he could not let his “error in judgment" affect the organization's efforts and the children they help.
- Danny Masterson Gets 30 to Life (FindLaw's Courtside)
- Sentencing Law FAQ (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Sexual Assault Overview (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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