Trigger warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual violence. They were co-stars on the hit sitcom That 70s Show as well as former Church of Scientology members, and while Laura Prepon hasn’t responded to Danny Masterson’s rape sentencing or conviction, there are subtle indications of how she feels about it.
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Masterson was accused in March 2017 of raping three women in separate incidents between 2001 and 2003 when That 70’s Show was still on air. He was charged in 2020. The actor, who played Stephen Hyde, pleaded not guilty to all three charges in 2021 and went on trial, though it was declared a mistrial in December 2022 after the jury was deadlocked, i.e., they couldn’t unanimously agree on whether to convict him for the third rape.
The three women who claimed Masterson assaulted them through the Church of Scientology met with journalist Tony Ortega. He posted the allegations as he claimed that one victim approached former Scientologist Leah Remini and told her what allegedly happened. The woman was then advised to file a police report by Remini, according to Ortega.
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“I met with the LAPD. I met with Detective Reyes [of the robbery-homicide division, who was assigned the case], and I told her these victims deserve to be heard,” Remini told Ortega at the time. “I asked her to do the right thing by these girls, and I told her that the world is watching.”
Prepon, who played Donna on the hit show, also dated Masterson’s brother, Christopher, for eight years and after they broke up, Prepon and her co-star remained friends. Here’s what we know about Laura Prepon’s response to Danny Masterson’s rape crimes.
Laura Prepon’s response to Danny Masterson’s rape crimes
Laura Prepon hasn’t issued a response to Danny Masterson’s rape trial or conviction, and it’s unlikely she ever will, but she did quietly cut ties with the Church of Scientology in 2016, shortly after his sexual assaults were reported to police.
Leah Remini, perhaps the most outspoken former member against Scientology, condemned Prepon for not explaining why she left or what she may have known about the allegations against Masterson before the rapes became public knowledge.
“I think people have a responsibility to do their part,” said Remini on Daily Blast Live in 2020. “Not everybody feels that they have a responsibility. They feel they should just go on with their lives, while some of us take a beating.” She added, “Some people, like Laura, feel that they don’t have a responsibility to speak out. Do I respect it? I mean, not really.”
The lawsuit against Scientology
In a lawsuit filed in 2020, The Church of Scientology was accused of trying to silence Masterson’s victims for speaking to authorities, via harassment and stalking. According to court documents obtained by The Blast, the women claimed the defendants engaged in “conspiracy to cover up that Daniel Masterson sexually assaulted four young women.”
The lawsuit claimed: “When those women came forward to report Masterson’s crimes, the Defendants conspired to and systematically stalked, harassed, invaded their and their family’s privacy, and intentionally caused them emotional distress and silence and intimidate them.”
In the lawsuit, Masterson’s ex-girlfriend Chrissie Carnell Bixler said she started dating Masterson in 1996 and eventually moved in with him. She claims she joined him in the Church of Scientology “per his orders.”
She alleged that during their relationship, Masterson “regularly forced [her] to have sex with him and became violent when [she] refused.” She also claimed that when she reported the star’s alleged behavior to a Scientology employee, she was told that “her job as Masterson’s girlfriend was to ‘give him sex whenever he wants it’ and that if she complied, ‘these things wouldn’t happen.’” Bixler’s decision to go to the LAPD in 2016 made her a “suppressive person” in the eyes of the church.
“The Los Angeles Police Department Robbery Homicide Division, Sexual Assault Section, is conducting an investigation involving the actor Danny Masterson. Three women have come forward and disclosed that they were sexually assaulted by Masterson during the early 2000s,” the police statement read at the time.
In the lawsuit, the women go on to explain that the Church has rules against reporting crimes. “Whether discovered during auditing or otherwise, Defendants forbid members from contacting police to report a crime committed by any member,” they claim. “The Institutional Defendants instruct their members and agents that reporting such instances to law enforcement is considered a ‘high crime’ and subjects the member to punishment.”
Ex-Scientologist Geoff Levin told The New York Post at the time that “Danny was part of the young Hollywood clique. He ran with Jason Lee [who has since left the church], Giovanni Ribisi, Laura Prepon [also not active in Scientology] and [Grounded for Life] sitcom actress Lynsey Bartilson.” According to Ortega: “One of the rules of Scientology is that celebrities get to break all the rules. They are not held to the same standards.”
In reading their victim impact statements, the court heard a heart-wrenching account of how the victims’ lives had been forever altered by his actions. “When you raped me, you stole from me,” Jane Doe #2 told the court.
“That’s what rape is, a theft of the spirit. You are pathetic, disturbed and completely violent,” she said. “The world is better off with you in prison.” Jane Doe #1 said Masterson “has not shown an ounce of remorse for the pain he caused. I knew he belonged behind bars for the safety of all the women he came into contact with,” she said. “I am so sorry, and I’m so upset. I wish I’d reported him sooner to the police.” Jane Doe #3 said Masterson’s actions sentenced her to “viewing my body as a crime scene my entire life.”
Danny Masterson’s sentence
Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo issued a scathing assessment of Masterson before she dispatched him to prison. “Mr. Masterson, I know that you’re sitting here steadfast in your claims of innocence and thus no doubt feeling victimized by a justice system that has failed you,” she said, per NBC News. “But Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said he applauded the women for “coming forward and participating in this process,” adding that he hoped it encouraged others to come forward about instances of abuse in Hollywood. “My hope is that this sentence will somehow bring them peace and that their bravery will be an example to others,” he said. “One of my top priorities is to ensure that Los Angeles will no longer be a hunting ground for Hollywood elite who feel entitled to prey on women.”
Shawn Holley, a lawyer for Masterson, told reporters outside the courtroom that she was “very disappointed” in the sentence, noting that a team of lawyers had reviewed the case and found “a number of significant evidentiary and constitutional issues” that they planned to use in appeals. “Though we have great respect for the jury, and for our system of justice, sometimes they get it wrong — and that’s what happened here,” Holley said, noting that Masterson maintains his innocence.
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