Prosecutors arguing the criminal rape case against Danny Masterson have decided not to call Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the late Elvis Presley, as a witness after the defense successfully argued for enough restrictions on what she could be asked regarding Scientology that the state decided Wednesday it just wasn’t worth it.
Presley was one of the highest-profile witnesses on the list for the prosecution, which for months had been touting her potential testimony about the Church of Scientology. Her current connection to the church was not entirely clear; Presley reportedly left in 2014, though church representatives have since disputed that. Representatives for Scientology and Presley did not immediately return messages left Wednesday morning.
Presley’s exclusion is a win for the defense, which argued before Judge Charlaine Olmedo to put extreme limits on what she could be asked about Scientology, of which Masterson is a prominent member. Prosecutors have tried to show that church leadership vigorously suppressed allegations against the “That ’70s Show” star from multiple accusers, some of whom have separately sued the church and its leaders in civil court.
On Tuesday, Olmedo ruled that Presley could only be asked to corroborate statements made to her by Jane Doe 1, a former Scientologist who testified last month that Masterson raped her twice, in 2002 and 2003. She would not be allowed, the judge said, to testify that the church used her to dissuade Jane Doe 1 from going to police.
During the Tuesday negotiations before the judge, and with the jury not present, prosecutors said after they subpoenaed Presley’s testimony, she retained a lawyer who indicated she would exercise her Fifth Amendment rights on the stand. Prosecutors said she was concerned about her liability for telling Jane Doe 1 not to report the crime, but that she had been offered immunity for her testimony, which was likely beyond the statute of limitations anyway.
Prosecutors had also wanted to include a direct message from Presley to Jane Doe 1, in which she appears to apologize for following the church alleged directive to “smooth things over.” Scientology has repeatedly and vigorously said that it had nothing to do with the Masterson matter, and denies that it has a policy against reporting crimes.
Masterson was formally charged in 2020, but allegations first came to light in March 2017, more than six months before the New York Times’ bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein. A blogger covering Scientology was first to report that Los Angeles Police Department detectives were investigating Masterson after three women came forward with accusations of rape and assault.
The women claim they came into contact with Masterson in the early 2000s through Scientology, and each has said they were pressured by the Church into keeping the allegations quiet.
Testimony was to resume Wednesday afternoon.