UPDATE: June 17, 2020 ― Danny Masterson has been charged with forcibly raping three women, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Read more here.
A monthslong investigation into multiple allegations of rape against actor Danny Masterson has inexplicably stalled, despite the Los Angeles County district attorney having compelling evidence in the case, multiple sources told HuffPost. Four women have accused Masterson of raping them in the early 2000s.
Masterson is a longtime member of the Church of Scientology, an organization that has a history of covering up allegations of misconduct leveled against the organization and its members. At least three of the women who have accused him of rape were also Scientologists and reported the incidents to the Church of Scientology at the time.
Masterson, star of the sitcom “That ’70s Show,” has denied that he engaged in any sexual misconduct. In May, journalist Tony Ortega revealed that Masterson hired power lawyer Thomas Mesereau to serve as his criminal defense attorney. Bill Cosby also hired Mesereau for a retrial of sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania.
Masterson is also represented by Hollywood litigator Marty Singer, who is also representing film director Brett Ratner in responding to allegations of sexual misconduct that were originally detailed in a Los Angeles Times report.
A spokesperson for Mesereau and a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office both declined to comment.
One of Masterson’s accusers filed a police report in 2004 saying that she was raped in 2003, but the case didn’t move forward after the Church of Scientology intervened and submitted over 50 affidavits from Scientologists who denied the woman’s account. According to a report filed with the Los Angeles Police Department, the woman said Masterson raped her while she was “passed out,” and when she awoke and realized he was raping her, she struggled with him until he choked her and she passed out again.
In Scientology, reporting another Scientologist to law enforcement is considered a “suppressive act” and can lead to immediate expulsion from the organization. The church is known for attacking accusers rather than rebutting the accusations and for efficiently organizing its members to take action against accusers. According to two sources with knowledge of the case, the woman’s case file from 2004 vanished, leaving Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller to reconstruct it.
HuffPost spoke to five sources for this story inside and outside the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. All of the sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to a reporter about an ongoing law enforcement investigation.
The LAPD in late 2016 began to interview the women accusing Masterson of rape. Ortega first reported on the LAPD investigation in March 2017.
In April 2017, police referred the case to the district attorney. Since then, the district attorney’s office has examined the evidence turned over by LAPD and conducted its own investigation. Despite compelling ― what one law enforcement source described as “overwhelming” — evidence, the charges have not been approved for filing. The evidence includes audiotapes, emails sent to and from Scientology officers at the time the alleged rapes happened, forensic computer evidence and a threatening handwritten letter Masterson sent to one of the alleged victims, according to two people with knowledge of the evidence in the district attorney’s possession.
Mueller is a highly respected prosecutor in the district attorney’s office who is known for his thoroughness and objectivity, which is why two sources in the office are confused that the case, in one source’s words, has been “slow rolled.”
Masterson has had a long, successful career in television. He starred in the comedy “That ’70s Show” for eight seasons, from 1998 to 2006, and most recently starred in the Netflix series “The Ranch” with Ashton Kutcher, who was his co-star on “That ’70s Show.”
Netflix appears not to have taken action against Masterson, despite multiple reports in publications including the Los Angeles Times that revealed the LAPD was conducting an investigation into allegations of rape. Within days of BuzzFeed’s report that actor Anthony Rapp accused “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey of sexual misconduct, Netflix suspended filming on the drama’s sixth season.
Netflix announced that part four of “The Ranch” would premiere on its website in December. The company made the announcement on Oct. 17, seven months after news of the LAPD investigation was made public.
A spokesperson for Netflix did not immediately return a request for comment.
This article has been updated to note the LA district attorney’s office declined to comment.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.