Danny Masterson's Conviction Fully Explained

The following article includes allegations of rape and sexual assault.

"That 70's Show" actor, Danny Masterson, has been found guilty of rape, per NBC News. The official verdict comes several years after he was first accused of sexual assault in 2017 by five different women. Three of the women had accused the actor of rape.

One of them, a former ex-girlfriend named Bobette Riales, took to Twitter to share her story with the actor. She said, "I stayed quiet long enough. Danny Masterson repeatedly raped me. All I seek is justice and to prevent this from ever happening to anyone else as it has for some time. My truth will be heard..." The actor was arrested and charged in 2020, although he and his reps continued to vouch for his innocence. In a statement (via Variety), Masterson's attorney said "Mr. Masterson is innocent, and we're confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify."

In 2021, Masterson officially pleaded not guilty to the accusations. The first trial regarding the case began in October 2021 and involved the victims taking the stand to tell their stories. However, it ended in a mistrial, so a retrial was arranged for April 2023. Similar to the first time, victims took the stand and not only told their stories, but shed light on Masterson's relationship with Scientology, per Variety. It was alleged the church had encouraged several victims to keep quiet about the actor. After a month in court, the jury finally decided Masterson's fate.

Danny Masterson's family supported him throughout the trial

Danny Masterson has officially been found guilty of two counts of forcible rape (via Variety). The jury in the case came to the decision on May 31st, 2023 after several weeks of trial. According to the outlet, the jury only found him guilty of two of the three accusations of rape. In the third rape charge, the jury was at an 8-4 standstill, with the majority in favor of finding the "That 70's Show" actor guilty. 

According to NBC News, Masterson was handcuffed and taken away immediately following the announcement of the jury's verdict. The actor's family was left stunned as Masterson's wife, Bijou Phillips, cried. Throughout it all, even during the mistrial, Masterson's family stood by his side as they claimed the allegations to be false (per Page Six). In January 2021, Masterson's lawyer shared, "Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year-old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out." The truth did seem to finally come out, but it wasn't in favor of Masterson, as he was found guilty. And, in September 2023, the actor was officially sentenced.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Legal experts explain Danny Masterson's 30-year prison sentence

On September 7, 2023, Danny Masterson met the full brunt of the law, with Los Angeles County Judge Charlaine Olmedo sentencing the actor to 30 years to life behind bars for raping two women, per BBC News. The sentencing shocked some, including former prosecutor Joshua Ritter, who believed Masterson — given his crimes' age and his lack of a criminal record — would see a sentence upwards of 12 years. Ritter told Nicki Swift exclusively that "judges tend to bring down the hammer when a defendant has committed multiple sex crimes."

A Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, Ritter mused that a key difference could have been the prosecutors' shifted focus to Masterson's use of intoxication on his victims. It can be difficult to convince a court of rapes that happen within the confines of a relationship because, as Ritter explained, "jurors sometimes have trouble figuring out how sex can be consensual in one instance but rape in another instance." The alleged use of drugs and alcohol presented in the retrial could have heavily swayed the jurors and the judge.

Civil rights attorney Jamie White – known for his prominent work with sexual assault victims — characterized the retrial itself as a negative factor in Masterson's case. "Retrials are not a defendant's friend," White said, adding that his victims' repeated harrowing testimonies — especially as they had no direct affiliation with one another — only strengthened the prosecution's case. 

Danny Masterson will likely lose his civil suit too

What's next for Danny Masterson and his legal team? According to criminal defense attorney Joshua Ritter, they have "strong grounds for appeal" due to the prosecution's use of victim testimonies of rape that were ultimately not charged as crimes. "The danger whenever a judge allows prosecutors to present that type of evidence is that the jury might wind up convicting the defendant simply because they think he's a horrible person, and not on the basis of the evidence for the specific crimes," Ritter said, noting that this opens a lane for appeal.

Even if Masterson does appeal, Los Angeles entertainment attorney Tre Lovell explained that his victims have "a very good chance at succeeding in their civil case" against him. "The prosecution has already passed the high bar of a criminal trial and that requires a finding of beyond a reasonable doubt," Lovell told Nicki Swift exclusively, adding that the "threshold to find liability in a civil case is much less."

Another issue that Masterson faces in a potential appeal is the role the Church of Scientology has played throughout both trials. Lovell noted the organization's negative influence on his conviction and subsequent sentencing. "For years it has been accused of either controlling its members or handling wrongdoing internally," Lovell said, adding that the ruling "could encourage other women who feel they have been silenced by the church to come forward."