Danny Masterson Jury Restarts Rape Trial Deliberations After 2 Panelists Test Positive for COVID

Two jurors with COVID symptoms and positive tests were excused Monday from the Danny Masterson rape trial, and two alternates were seated – meaning the panel of now six men and six women is starting deliberations from scratch.

No big loss: After nearly three days of tussling with three separate charges, the original panel of seven women and five men had not agreed on any of them before breaking ahead of Thanksgiving week. To get a conviction, Masterson must be found guilty in at least two of the charged cases – California’s statute of limitations does not allow individual sexual assault charges as old as the ones against the “That ’70s Show” star to be prosecuted.

The excused jurors were a man and a woman. Another alternate, who said she was contagious with strep throat, was also excused. One juror had sat for part of the first day of testimony last month, but was excused the following day over undisclosed “concerns.” That brings the pool of alternates, which started out at seven, down to three.

The judge told the new panel Monday to restart deliberations and ignore their previous discussions. As has become part of a daily ritual, Masterson defense attorney Phillip Cohen angrily called for a mistrial – and was denied.

“We have a hopelessly hung jury,” Cohen said.

Judge Charlaine F. Olmeda replied, “That’s not what they said in their note. They said they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision.”

If the jury is unable to arrive at a unanimous decision, a mistrial will be declared. Prosecutors would have the option of trying the case again, but without a change in the available evidence, a more likely outcome would be for the state to drop charges against Masterson altogether.

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Closing arguments began Nov. 15, with prosecutors wrapping more than a month of testimony by painting the “That ’70s Show” star as an entitled “upstat” – a Scientology term for the church’s highest-ranking members – who sexually attacked young, vulnerable women by bulldozing through clear boundaries, knowing his status would protect him from consequences.

Common threads ran through the testimony of all four women: Each said Masterson was aggressive and commandeering, that he served them at least one alcoholic beverage and that he sexually penetrated them without consent as they drifted in and out of consciousness. Three of the women, including a former long-term girlfriend, were Scientologists; Jane Doe 4, a non-charged witness called at the 11th hour, was not.

Masterson’s defense team, which has maintained the actor’s assertion that the relations were entirely consensual, did not call any witnesses. And Masterson – who showed little to no emotion and would often stare intently at witnesses as they spoke on the stand – did not testify.

Masterson was formally charged in 2020, but allegations first came to light in 2017 when a blogger covering Scientology reported that detectives were investigating the actor after three women came forward with accusations of rape and assault. The women each claimed they came into contact with Masterson in the early 2000s through the Church of Scientology, and were pressured by church officers to keep quiet.