Danny Masterson, the actor ousted from Netflix's "The Ranch" amid sexual assault allegations, has been charged with forcibly raping three women in separate incidents between 2001 and 2003, the district attorney in Los Angeles County announced Wednesday.
Masterson, 44, was charged with three counts of rape by force or fear. His arraignment is scheduled for September 18.
The actor was arrested late Wednesday morning, jail records showed. He was released a few hours later after posting a $3.3 million bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 18.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller of the Sex Crimes Division, who is prosecuting the case, said all of the alleged crimes occurred at Masterson's home in Hollywood Hills.
Masterson's attorney, noted criminal defense lawyer Tom Mesereau, issued a statement declaring Masterson "innocent."
"We’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify," the statement said.
Masterson is accused of raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001, according to the complaint. In April 2003, he is accused of raping a 28-year-old woman. And sometime between October and December of 2003, he is accused of raping a 23-year-old woman he had invited to his home.
If convicted as charged, he faces a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison.
However, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said her office declined to file sexual assault charges against Masterson in two other cases, one because there was insufficient evidence and the other based on the statute of limitations.
Masterson's lawyer said Wednesday the actor is shocked over the charges.
“Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out," Mesereau said in a statement. "The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.”
The women, whose names were not made public, issued a statement to the Associated Press through their attorneys saying they have suffered "harassment, embarrassment and re-victimization” since they began cooperating with authorities.
“We are thankful that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is finally seeking criminal justice against Masterson,” the statement said. "We are confident that the truth will be known and hope that the charges filed today are the first steps in this long journey of healing, justice, and holding those that victimized us accountable.”
The alleged rapes came at the height of Masterson’s fame as he starred on the retro sitcom “That ’70s Show” alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace. The series ran on Fox TV from 1998 to 2006 and has had a long afterlife in reruns.
He had reunited with Kutcher on the Netflix western sitcom “The Ranch” when the LAPD investigation of him was revealed in March 2017, after multiple women accused Masterson of sexually assaulting them. The news did not have immediate career repercussions for Masterson, but later in the year, after allegations against Harvey Weinstein shook Hollywood’s culture, he was written off the show.
Masterson decried the Hollywood atmosphere that led to his losing the job, and also suggested at the time that his high-profile membership in the Church of Scientology was leading to his persecution.
He said in a 2017 statement that “in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.”
In 2011 Masterson married Bijou Phillips, 40, an actress, model and singer who is the daughter of late musician John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, and Geneviève Waïte. The couple welcomed a daughter in 2014.
Last August, four women who accused Masterson of raping or sexually assaulting them filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against him and the Church of Scientology, according to the Huffington Post and The Hollywood Reporter.
The suit accused Masterson and the Church of Scientology of engaging in stalking, physical invasion of privacy and a conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other allegations, according to a complaint.
Masterson called the lawsuit "beyond ridiculous" in a statement to USA TODAY at the time. The Church of Scientology also called the lawsuit "baseless" in a statement to the Huffington Post, saying it "will go nowhere because the claims are ludicrous and a sham. It’s a dishonest and hallucinatory publicity stunt."
In February, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Masterson's attorney Andrew Brettler asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit, calling it "a shameful money grab." The case remains ongoing but has been effectively paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the hearing on the motion was postponed.
In August, actress and ex-Scientologist Leah Remini interviewed accusers about their experiences and their interactions with the church for her show, "Scientology and the Aftermath."
One accuser she talked to was Crissie Bixler, a former girlfriend of Masterson's who accused him of raping her when she was unconscious in 2001. When she reported the incident to a church ethics officer, she said she was told: "It's not rape if you've been in a consensual relationship."
In an Aug. 13 letter quoted on "Scientology and the Aftermath," the Church of Scientology refuted the account, saying, "Ms. Bixler never once told the Church about her accusations, and the Church never retaliated against her for making the claim."
In 2017, Netflix executive Andy Yeatman, director of children's content, lost his job after he allegedly told a woman who accused Masterson of sexual assault that Netflix didn't believe Masterson's accusers.
Masterson’s case stands out as just the second set of charges Los Angeles prosecutors have filed against a famous Hollywood figure in the #MeToo era.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles prosecutors have delayed their efforts to extradite Weinstein to California to face charges of rape and sexual assault. He is being held in a New York prison after being convicted of similar charges earlier this year.
Lacey set up a Hollywood sex-crimes task force in 2017 to investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual misconduct in the county; many cases presented to prosecutors were declined for various reasons including statute of limitations.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Danny Masterson charged with three rape counts in Los Angeles