Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis asked judge for leniency in Danny Masterson's rape sentencing

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 07: Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson present an award onstage at the 2017 CMT Music Awards at the Music City Center on June 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Ashton Kutcher, left, shown at the 2017 CMT Music Awards with Danny Masterson, wrote a letter in support of his co-star from "That '70s Show" in a high-profile rape case. (Kevin Mazur / WireImage)

A bevy of high-profile stars came to the defense of actor and convicted rapist Danny Masterson before his sentencing Thursday, calling on the judge in his case to offer leniency.

Masterson, 47, was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo on Thursday despite the pleas from his "That ’70s Show" co-stars Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, among others.

"I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society and having his daughter raised without a present father would [be] a tertiary injustice in and of itself," Kutcher wrote in his letter, which was published first by reporter Meghann Cuniff.

The letters in support of defendants by their family and supporters are routine in criminal cases before sentencing. In Masterson's case, they came as part of a 108-page filing reviewed by The Times. Neither Kunis nor Kutcher argued that Masterson was not guilty of the crimes, but they vouched for his character and the person they knew him to be.

Read more: Danny Masterson sentenced to 30 years to life for raping former Scientologists

"From the very beginning, I could sense his innate goodness and genuine nature," Kunis said in her letter. "His caring nature and ability to offer guidance have been instrumental in my growth both personally and professionally."

In Kutcher's letter, he noted a time when he said Masterson jumped to the defense of a woman whose boyfriend was berating her at a pizza restaurant.

"It was an incident he didn’t have to get involved in but proactively chose to because the way this man was behaving was not right," Kutcher wrote.

Both actors said Masterson's anti-drug attitude helped them to stay on the straight and narrow during their careers in Hollywood.

Masterson was convicted in May of two counts of rape after his second trial on charges stemming from allegations of sexual assaults by three women he knew through the Church of Scientology.

Read more: Danny Masterson Sentencing Memo Letters of Support

State law required Masterson to be sentenced to 15 years to life on each rape count, but Olmedo had the option to run the sentences concurrently or consecutively, meaning Masterson effectively faced either 15 years to life or 30 years to life.

In court, defense attorney Shawn Holley also asked Olmedo to exercise sentencing leniency, citing Masterson’s lack of a criminal record and history of philanthropic actions, drawing a sharp rebuke from Deputy Dist. Atty. Reinhold Mueller.

“The manner in which this defendant committed his acts — it was violent, it was targeted in some instances, surreptitiously drugging his victims so they were incapacitated when he committed these assaults,” he said. “It’s heinous. And to suggest, under all of these circumstances, that 15 years to life ... is enough and that’s fair and just? Absolutely not.”

Read more: Mars Volta’s lead singer broke with Scientology and reunited with the band. His battles with the church aren’t over

The rapes occurred at Masterson's Hollywood Hills home in the early 2000s, when he was a rising star from "That ’70s Show."

During testimony, each victim described violent assaults in graphic detail, saying they fell prey to Masterson after he served them drinks that made them disoriented and nauseated.

The Church of Scientology was invoked repeatedly at trial and became a key focus of defense and prosecution teams alike. The women said the church discouraged them from reporting Masterson to law enforcement at the time of the rapes; the church denied those allegations.

Read more: Appeals court says accusers' case against Church of Scientology can proceed

Other well-known Hollywood actors, including Masterson's brother-in-law Billy Baldwin and Giovanni Ribisi, who was raised in Scientology, wrote letters in support of Masterson, as did fellow "That ’70s Show" cast member Debra Jo Rupp.

Numerous family members, including Masterson's wife, Bijou Phillips Masterson, also penned letters in support.

Masterson's victims, identified in court only by a single initial and either their first or last name, also had a chance to address the court before the sentencing.

One woman, N. Trout, said Masterson enjoyed hurting her.

"You relish in hurting women,” she said. “It is an addiction. It is, without question, your favorite thing to do. ... Your sickness is no longer my burden to bear.”

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.