the law

Judge Declared Mistrial in Danny Masterson Rape Case

Photo: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

A mistrial was declared in Danny Masterson’s Los Angeles rape trial on November 29 after jurors said they were deadlocked, according to the Associated Press. The turn of events was not entirely unexpected: On November 18, the jury had told judge Charlaine F. Olmedo that they couldn’t come to a verdict. Olmedo told them to take a break over the Thanksgiving holiday week and then return November 28 to keep deliberating. After returning Monday, two jurors tested positive for COVID-19, causing deliberations to completely restart, the Associated Press reported. After two days, the jury told Olmedo they weren’t able to reach a verdict. “I find the jurors hopelessly deadlocked,” Olmedo reportedly said. The jury said that they had voted seven times on November 29 and November 30 but couldn’t come to an agreement on any of the three counts Masterson faces. The jury foreman stated that two jurors voted to convict on one count, four voted to convict on the second count, and five voted to convict on the third. Per the AP, Olmedo scheduled Masterson’s retrial for March. Masterson has maintained his innocence.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said they were “disappointed with the outcome in this trial” when asked for comment and said they would “consider our next steps as it relates to prosecuting this case.”

Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, heralded the outcome. “I am extremely pleased and proud of this jury and the time and the dedication and the work they put into their decision,” Cohen told Vulture. Asked how Masterson felt about the mistrial, Cohen said, “He feels the same way I do. It’s a big relief, at this stage. To the extent we have another battle ahead of us, it’s something that we’re going to be ready to deal with.”

Veteran attorneys said that the development is a win for Masterson.
“Short of an acquittal, I think he absolutely sees this as a victory given the breakdown of the split on hung jurors — it seems as though most of the jurors on all of the counts were unable to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt,” Joshua Ritter, a partner with El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers and a former prosecutor in Los Angeles, told Vulture. This puts Masterson in a “far better position, as far as leverage, to negotiate with the DA’s office than he was before,” Ritter said, and the reported breakdown of jurors’ votes could make prosecutors wary of retrying the case. “That type of a split is going to give them serious pause about whether or not to pursue a second trial because they put on about the best case that they could.” (Masterson’s attorney told Vulture that the actor would not consider a plea deal.)

Masterson was charged with raping three women at his Hollywood home in separate incidents during the 2000s. When prosecutors said they were charging Masterson, they also announced that they had declined to file charges involving two other allegations. One of these accusations involved alleged insufficient evidence. The other stemmed from statute-of-limitations issues, prosecutors said.

The allegations against Masterson surfaced in March 2017, prior to the Me Too movement gaining traction. The actor, who is also a high-profile figure in Scientology — a church that counts dozens of Hollywood actors among its members — denied their claims, effectively maintaining that angry ex-Scientologists had a score to settle and pointed to ex-Scientologist and actress Leah Remini. But the allegations against Masterson continued to grow. HuffPost reported in November 2017 that the number of accusers had increased to four and that the purported evidence was with Los Angeles prosecutors. Masterson began losing roles as a fifth woman alleged that he had sexually assaulted her. Several accusers — three of whom are in the rape case — filed a civil lawsuit against the church in August 2019, claiming they were harassed after coming forward. A spokesperson for Scientology previously told Vulture that they were “confident we will prevail in the civil matter, where we know the slanderous allegations about the Church are completely false.”

Judge Declared Mistrial in Danny Masterson Rape Case