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A Moment of Awe and Appreciation for the Women Who Fought Danny Masterson

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A white man with curly brown hair and beard stands in front a wood-paneled wall. He is wearing a polo shirt and suede jacket.
Danny Masterson in 2017. (John Shearer/ Getty Images)

Former That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison on Thursday, following his conviction in May on charges that he had raped two women. The decision represents rarely seen justice in the post-#MeToo era, following years in which his victims were belittled and pushed aside repeatedly. Masterson and his team, however, remain unrepentant.

“Though we have great respect for the jury, and for our system of justice,” Masterson lawyer Shawn Holley said after the verdict, “sometimes they get it wrong. And that’s what happened here.”

Steadfast assertions about Masterson’s innocence have been par for the course for everyone in his camp ever since accusations by four women — including one ex-girlfriend — first came to public attention in 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement. Each of those women accused Masterson of drugging and raping them at his home between 2001 and 2003. Masterson, his representatives and the Church of Scientology — of which Masterson has been a lifelong member — have been issuing aggressive denials ever since. The first came from attorney Tom Mesereau in 2017: “Mr. Masterson is innocent,” Mesereau said in a statement, “and we’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light.”

In 2019, a statement from Masterson himself said: “This is beyond ridiculous. I’m not going to fight my ex-girlfriend in the media like she’s been baiting me to do for more than two years. I will beat her in court … And once her lawsuit is thrown out, I intend to sue her and the others who jumped on the bandwagon for the damage they caused me and my family.”

Masterson’s unrelenting approach was noted even by Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo directly before she handed down her sentence on Thursday. “I know that you’re sitting here steadfast in your claims of innocence,” Olmedo noted, “and thus no doubt feeling victimized by a justice system that has failed you. But Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here … One way or another, you will have to come to terms with your prior actions and their consequences.”


Those consequences come now only because of the tenacity, determination and bravery of the women who survived Masterson’s assaults. Referred to during the trial as N. Trout, Jen B. and Christina B. — Masterson’s fourth accuser’s charges never made it to trial — those women have been fighting to be heard for upwards of two decades now. The fact that justice is finally theirs (mostly — the jury failed to reach a verdict when it came to one of the women) must be a gargantuan relief.

In the earliest days after the alleged attacks, the women, all Scientology members, first had to get past the church’s code of silence and its commitment to handling criminal matters internally. Documents leaked to journalist Tony Ortega in 2017 suggested that when the women reported Masterson to fellow church members in the early 2000s, they were pressured to not report him to outside authorities.

Court documents later revealed that when Christina B. reported her rape to a Scientology “ethics officer,” she was told: “You can’t rape someone that you’re in a relationship with.”

In 2003, when Jen B. asked permission from the church to report Masterson to the police, Scientology officials suggested that the action might result in “disconnection” for her — the practice of shunning church members deemed to be a threat to Scientology. Despite the risk of losing her family, friends and way of life, Jen B. reported her rape to the police the following year — a feat that must have required unbelievable resolve.

After the accusations against Masterson did finally come to light more than a decade later, Scientology did its darnedest to discredit the women. So much so that in 2019, Masterson’s four accusers sued Masterson and the church for stalking, invading their privacy and attempting to obstruct justice. At the time, counsel for the Church of Scientology denied all charges and told People: “This baseless lawsuit will go nowhere because the claims are ludicrous and a sham.”

Since then, Scientologists have been fighting to stall a resolution in the lawsuit. The church has argued repeatedly that any arbitration must be handled within Scientology and not in a Los Angeles Superior Court. When a ruling came down against that assertion last year, the church then tried to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. (The court refused to hear the case.) The lawsuit remains frustratingly up in the air.

Moving through the criminal trial phase has been just as arduous. Though originally charged with sexual misconduct in 2017, then with three counts of rape in June 2020, it took until May 2021 for Masterson’s preliminary hearing to begin. When it did, the actor started proceedings by posting a smiling selfie taken outside the courthouse to his Instagram account. Next to his wife Bijou Philips in her car, the caption read: “Had the most beautiful Uber driver drop me off at school today. #uberwife #bijouphillips.”

The image was a smug middle finger to each of his accusers just as they were about to share, on the stand, harrowing and haunting accounts of the respective nights they spent at his house. Their assaults, they say, included Masterson hitting, spitting on, insulting, restraining, choking them and making threats with a gun. After listening to their stories, the judge asserted that Masterson must face trial.

That trial didn’t start until October 2022, at which time the women had to tell their respective stories yet again — this time, with Masterson’s lawyer asserting throughout that their sexual encounters with the actor had been consensual. When that case resulted in a mistrial, it was hard to imagine how much more these women could take. Still each of them returned to court and told their stories yet again this year. If they hadn’t, Masterson would undoubtedly still be free and living his life, just as he did during the many years when fear and intimidation kept three of his accusers silent.

Make no mistake, Masterson’s survivors have had to scale impossibly high hurdles from the get-go. This has been a case that, for them, has dragged on and on, first behind closed doors, then within an institution they trusted but that ultimately failed them, then more recently in the public eye.

Before Masterson’s sentencing, one of the women emphasized: “I lost everything. I lost my religion. I lost my ability to contact anyone I’d known or loved my entire life. I didn’t exist outside the Scientology world. I had to start my life all over at 29.”

Despite it all, once these women committed to see this case through, they never gave up. They never backed down. They kept telling their stories again and again and again. They kept going despite every miserable, soul-destroying thing that got thrown at them.

When it comes to cases involving sexual violence, the wheels of justice move at a pace that is excruciating to watch, let alone live through. The way these cases drag on only extends the length of time that accusers must tolerate barbs, insults and insinuations about their character. That isn’t just deeply frustrating for those involved, it acts as a major disincentive to other survivors considering coming forward.


What the women who prompted Danny Masterson’s trial just did wasn’t just an important reminder to survivors to keep going, it was profoundly satisfying for those of us who have long been frustrated by the lack of real, quantifiable justice that has resulted from the #MeToo movement. We all owe these women a debt of gratitude for the relief of seeing that sometimes justice is possible, no matter how many barriers are standing in the way.

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