UPDATE, 3:58 PM : “When you review the evidence you are to consider evidence that is reasonable and only evidence that is reasonable,” Deputy L.A. County District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said to jurors in the Danny Masterson rape trial this afternoon in his final statement. “If something is unreasonable to you, you must reject it.”
In contrast to a somewhat pugilistic closing statement by primary defense lawyer Phillip Cohen, Mueller used his last words to the jury before deliberations to ease back to the prosecution’s core case. The panel is currently in the jury room until at least 4 p.m. or so. It will then resume their deliberations tomorrow morning. With the Thanksgiving holiday week fast approaching, it is very likely the jury could come back with a verdict in the next day or so. If found guilty, the former That ‘70s Show star could land in prison for up to 45 years.
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“Scientology is not in this case,” the Deputy D.A. directly said of the elephant in the courtroom. “There are no charges against Scientology. But Scientology cannot be avoided.”
He sought to use L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings, of which Masterson is an adherent, to explain some actions of three women accusing him, who are former Scientologists.
“The rules it has in place has caused these victims…to act certain ways,” Mueller went on to say of the Jane Does at the heart of the forcible rape charges against prominent Scientologist Masterson. “Fear of going to law enforcement…certain statements about what is rape and what is not rape. You can’t avoid it. These are victims who have had the church as part of their life.”
“Center on the fact and only the facts in this case and not a bunch of speculation,” a carefully-modulated Mueller stated while pacing in front of the jurors and warning them about being distracted by the defense.
“Do you find the Jane Does credible beyond a reasonable doubt?” asked the defense’s Cohen during his remarks earlier in the afternoon Tuesday. “Because if you don’t, the analysis ends there. These are the rules we have to play by in a trial.” The lawyer added: “If you find that a witness has been false…about something significant you should consider not believing anything that witness says.”
Going into the gist of his closing argument, Cohen sparred with the prosecution’s definition of what constitutes sexual assault, how “no” means “no,” and whether or not the defendant “reasonably” considered that “the woman consented.” Flattering the jurors’ “note-taking” abilities, Cohen also centered on what he saw as the prosecution’s attempt to make this about more than Masterson (aka Scientology) because of “inconsistencies.”
The attorney declared that “we heard ‘Scientology’ over and over again, so much so that it became the go-to excuse.
“Paint Danny as this commanding and scary monster…until you look at the testimony,” Cohan said of the portrait provided by the D.A. and the Jane Does’ over the past several weeks. “When you look at the testimony it tells you something different,” he repeated.
“This is the problem when you veer from the truth,” Cohen said of Jane Doe #3’s ongoing relationship with Masterson after the couple broke up in the early 2000s and had multiple sexual encounters. Surveying all the accusers, including non-Scientologist Jane Doe #4 who is not part of the charges in the case, the lawyer mocked the notion that the alleged victims were “processing” their encounters with Masterson for years. “Sometimes they don’t tell the truth,” Cohen told the jury, allegedly poking holes in womens’ testimony and the prosecution’s case.
Moving tactically to the end of the defense table so he was looking directly at the jury during his lawyer’s presentation, Masterson pretty much kept his neutral face with exception of occasionally taking a sip from a cup in front of him and moving his mouth side-to-side at one point
“Blame it on others whenever there seems to be a contradiction,” the attorney added. “The key to this case is not when they reported it, but what they said when they reported it…and what they said at trial,” Cohen said in a summation of his closing statement. “All four women spoke to each other” before they went to the LAPD and the DA, Cohen stated.
As we have seen time and time again since testimony started on October 18, it took less than an hour after the return from lunch for Cohen to be hauled up to Judge Charlaine Olmedo’s bench for a sidebar on his provocative line of argument. With that, Cohen wrapped up his surprisingly brisk closing argument at around 2:45 PM.
“Reasonable doubt, that is what you need to find here,” Cohen said near the end of his presentation in a softer than usual voice. “I beg you, do your job as a juror.”
“People don’t lie in a vacuum, there has to be a motivation,” Deputy D.A. Mueller said in his near last statement in a direct rebuke to the defense. “You have to consider what is reasonable and what is not and give these three women their justice.
Z”You come back out here and find this defendant guilty of these charges.”
As he has on most days of the trial, Cohen sought a mistrial once the jury was out of the room late this afternoon. Once again, after listening to the lawyer protests the inclusion of a letter penned by Jane Doe #1, Judge Olmedo denied his motion for a mistrial and the process moved to deliberation.
PREVIOUSLY, 12:11 PM: “You don’t have to like Mr. Masterson, you don’t have to like Scientology, you don’t even have to like me,” lead defense attorney Philip Cohan said Tuesday in his closing statement at Danny Masterson’s Los Angeles rape trial. “You consider the evidence and whether that evidence leads to you to a binding conviction,” added the pacing lawyer, who put the criminal justice system in the spotlight as much as accusations against his client.
After a morning spent listening to the closing presentation by Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Cohen took center stage and told the jury that “I have been waiting so long for this. This case has been maddening for me.” Sitting in the witness stand at one point for effect and slamming the prosecution for bringing up the Church of Scientology “over 700 times in this trial,” he threw significant shade on the DA’s office and their motivation as he strategically ran the jurors through what their responsibilities are and what beyond a reasonable doubt means.
“They want to win this case, and they want to win this case so badly that they have ignored, right up to the closing argument to the blatant, obvious overwhelming contradictions and fabrications that each Jane Doe has given,” the boisterous Cohen said of the three counts of forcible rape his ex-That ’70s Show client faces and the 45 years in prison Masterson faces if found guilty. “It is not just maddening, to me, it is horrifying,” Cohan added of “the government’s case.”
Displaying a large photograph of Jane Doe #1 apparently partying on a 2003 trip to Florida right after the alleged rape by Masterson, Cohen swiped at claims that she was covered in bruises and suffering from anal assault and more. “Perhaps was JB not truthful?” he rhetorically asked, standing in front of the jury.
“That’s your reasonable doubt, right there,” he stated, going on to float motivations of money, revenge and more by the Jane Doe witnesses. “What else did DA Mueller leave out,” Cohen dramatically added.
“Ladies and gentle you have heard the evidence of this case, you have heard the testimony,” Deputy LA DA Reinhold Mueller actually told the jury earlier in the day in the near final remarks of his relatively short closing argument. “I submit to you ladies and gents that the evidence is this case proved that the defendant here, Danny Masterson, is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the rape of [Jane Does] Jen Z, NT and CB.”
Earlier, after the morning break, Mueller gave a succinct description of the case of Jane Doe #2, aka NT. As became clear of his presentation, Mueller hit on similarities in all the Jane Doe stories with emphasis on the discombobulating effects of a drink Masterson provided, a plunge in the jacuzzi, a move to the shower, and then the bedroom. “Her ultimately dead drop no was to have sex,” the prosecutor said. “Sex was her absolute, ultimate no.”
“She vomited in her mouth, not quite the romantic evening NT had in mind,” Mueller went on to say of Jane Doe #2’s reaction to the alleged harsh “forcible rape” by Masterson. Jurors seemed to visibly react to the Deputy D.A’s words and the imagery he invoked in a manner that wasn’t apparent earlier in the day. “She’s trying to figure out what just happened,” Mueller said of NT staying afterwards to talk with Masterson that day, and her short call a week later with the actor about what had occurred. “She thought maybe what was happening was an expression of his affection … she was wrong.”
Building on his narrative of the morning of Masterson as a predator, Mueller also retold the story of Jane Doe #4, who is not involved in the charges in the case.
The defense’s closing statement will continue this afternoon, with the prosecution allowed to respond.
PREVIOUSLY, 10:22 AM: Danny Masterson is a “defendant for whom no never meant no,” Deputy Los Angeles County District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said Tuesday as part of his closing argument in the former That ‘70s Show star’s rape trial.
“If you were incapacitated in his bed, he would rape you,” the prosecutor said in a downtown courtroom of the alleged incidents at Masterson’s Hollywood Hills home in the early 2000s.
“If you were in a relationship with him for any period of time he would control you,” Mueller added of Masterson, who sat nearby with his defense team with an impassive look. “He believed he was entitled to have sex with you any time he wanted, and if you said no, he doesn’t care,” Mueller went on to say, with images up on the screen next to him of onetime Masterson girlfriend Jane Doe #3 and the two other Jane Does at the core of the criminal case.
Masterson is charged with three counts of forcible rape in the L.A. trial, and faces up to 45 years in state prison if found guilty.
“We are all accountable for our actions,” Mueller said as he fervently and sometimes vividly laid out the parameters of consent in a relatively fast-paced presentation. “Having consent in the past doesn’t mean you get to do it in the future,” he noted. “Just because someone may not say the word no, that’s not a green light to go ahead.”
“This is not black and white, everybody processes this differently,” Mueller said of the perspectives that the trio of Jane Does had about what allegedly occurred, the context, their membership with Masterson in the Church of Scientology, and the time it took them to go to law enforcement.
“It’s complicated …you don’t want to be a victim and you don’t want to call him a rapist, despite the fact he is,” Mueller said.
“There’s going to be inconsistencies, but the major stuff was consistent,” the Deputy DA added, aiming to blunt one of the defense’s primary stabs at the Jane Does’ testimony. Walking a thin line delineated by Judge Charlaine Olmedo earlier in the trial, Mueller made repeated mention of the role Scientology officials and church policy had in trying to keep the alleged rapes from being reported to the LAPD.
After almost a month of testimony from the Jane Does, acquaintances, LAPD officers and experts, Mueller began to go over each assault in varying degrees of detail today. The Deputy DA did not remind the jury of what Masterson said on the stand, because on Monday the actor told the court he had decided not to testify in his own defense.
“You are not allowed to call it a rape, you are not allowed to go to the police … you will be declared a suppressive person,” Mueller said of what Jane Doe #1 testified she was instructed to do by Scientology Ethics Officer Julian Schwartz in mid-2003 and the excommunication she faced. Before the morning break today, Mueller also went over the anger that church officials had over Jane Doe #1/JB eventually going to the police in 2004, and the NDA and $400,000 settlement reached later that year.
Mueller went on to state similar “this is not a rape” pronouncements made by Scientology officials who Jane Doe #3 testified told her “this is your fault.”
Jane Doe #3/CB was also allegedly told “if she didn’t follow the rules, she would be declared a suppressive person.”
Masterson was first arrested in 2020 and has been free on $3 million bail. The actor, who was quickly fired from Netflix’s comedy The Ranch at the end of 2017 as claims became known, always has denied he had nonconsensual sex between 2001 and 2003 with the alleged victims or anyone else.
Three Jane Does took the stand in the trial, as did a fourth alleged victim last week; unlike Masterson and the trio of Jane Does, Jane Doe #4 was not, nor has ever been, a Scientologist. That is significant for the role the church played in the trial and the prosecution attempting to make Scientology a de facto defendant. Ex-Scientologist Lisa Marie Presley was on the prosecution witness list at one point, but Mueller chose not to call her after Olmedo placed strict limitations on how far of her possible testimony could go.
In addition to the criminal case, there also is a currently paused civil case that the three alleged victims and others filed in 2019 against Scientology and Masterson. The suit claims that after going to the LAPD with their allegations, the ex-Scientology plaintiffs have been stalked, intimidated, harassed, stalked and even allegedly saw some of their pets killed by the church and church affiliates.
Last month, the Supreme Court denied Scientology’s petition to take up the case after a California appellate court earlier this year ruled the ex-church members had a First Amendment right to not be held to the stipulations of a religious organizations once they have left it. Presently, the matter is stayed until late December, when the criminal case is expected to be concluded.
After a slightly late start due to a delayed juror, today’s hearing saw a jam-packed and mainly unmasked courtroom, with the benches filled with Masterson supporters and friends. Before going into the heart of his closing argument, Mueller spent a bit of time explaining how the process would work, how “the people have the burden of proof” in such a criminal case. The prosecutor also made a point of thanking the jury for their service, and thanking them for the “three victims in this case who were forcibly raped by this defendant, Danny Masterson.”
The D.A’s office presents its closing argument first, followed by the Phillip Cohen-led defense and another presentation by the prosecution if they chose. Overall, with the Harvey Weinstein L.A. rape trial taking place just down the hall at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, the closing arguments are expected to last all of today and perhaps into Wednesday.
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