The second day of testimony in the Los Angeles rape trial of Danny Masterson heard evidence of an alleged second sexual assault by the ex-That ’70s Show star on a fellow member of his Scientology social circle.
Continuing testimony that began yesterday, Jane Doe #1/Jen B testified to the full downtown courtroom on Wednesday about an alleged violent rape against her by Masterson on April 25, 2003.
Following a birthday party in LA’s Silverlake neighborhood, Jen B said she was at the actor’s Los Feliz home, where she says she had been previously assaulted by Masterson in 2022. Served a tumbler of a “really sweet, really fruity” alcoholic beverage by Masterson amidst a small party of friends and the likes of the actor’s publicist Jenni Weinman, the then 27-year-old Jen B talked about Masterson trying to toss her in his jacuzzi and feeling “woozy.”
With more recent photos of Masterson’s house up on the courtroom video monitor, the witness said she was pleading “no, no,” and feeling “panic” as Masterson carried her up a flight of stairs in his house.
The fruity drinks and jacuzzi have come up several times in opening statements and previous testimony. As a near stone-faced Masterson looked on in court today, Jen B described being thrown in the jacuzzi by the actor with most of her clothes still on. There were two “other girls” and two male friends in and around the jacuzzi at the time, the witness noted.
“I felt like I shouldn’t be here,” Jen B said, just before the court broke for its morning break in the trial, in which Masterson is facing charges of three counts of forcible rape that allegedly occurred in 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood Hills home. He was arrested in June 2020 and had been out on $3 million bail.
Masterson, who has denied having nonconsensual sex, faces a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison if found guilty.
With her voice cracking, Jen B admitted early in today’s morning session that she was “terribly embarrassed, really ashamed” about what had happened with Masterson the night before in the 2002 assault. Stating her reluctance to discuss what had occurred, she did reveal under questioning from Los Angeles deputy district attorney Reinhold Mueller that she eventually told a number of people including Lisa Presley about the assault. “No way, I can’t believe he did that,” Presley supposedly responded.
As the defense objected to the line of questioning, the witness went on to say that “reports were written” on her to Scientology officials and she was frozen out by many other members of her immediate church social circle. Asked by Mueller for more information on those reports, an increasingly hesitant Jen B turned to Judge Charlaine Olmedo to ask “am I allowed to answer?”
The role of Scientology and its practices has been a live wire in this case from the start and took up the bulk of Tuesday’s proceedings. With Masterson and all the alleged victims being present and former members of the church, the interactions of those involved have been partially weaved into the practices of the church – as was the subject of a prickly session in front of the judge today before the jury was brought in.
Struggling to describe the impact and “chaos” amid the self-described “tight-knit group” of younger Scientologists after Jen B told others about the alleged assault, she told the court that in fact, following a “moral correction” meeting with church Ethics Officer Julian Schwartz, she said she was “forced to make peace” with Masterson, “that we could be cool.” She went on to say she was “pressured” by the social dynamics of her Scientologist faith and “never be a victim” ethos to “bury the hatchet” with Masterson. Jen B also spoke of a phone call with Masterson, who was river-rafting at the time and asked her “so we’re good now?”
In a trial that is scheduled to run until around November 19, the day got off to a later start that usual today because one of the jurors was delayed in getting to court. However, once things kicked off around 9:30 a.m., everything was a direct pick-up from where the testimony ended Tuesday.
Not that everyone sat around twiddling their thumbs beforehand while waiting for the jury, as lawyers argued again before the judge about the presence of Scientology in the trial.
Although his latest request for a retrial was denied late Tuesday, defense attorney Phillip Cohen again took umbrage with Mueller’s opening statement and the early section of Jen B.’s testimony. Specifically, Cohen’s focus was on the introduction of Scientology policies and, specifically, the use of the word “enemy” by the witness in describing how the church supposedly views members fraternizing with non-Scientologists for any purpose other than bringing them into the fold.
Previous rulings by Olmedo limited the manner and context in which Scientology could be brought up, a fact Cohen leaned into hard this morning. In that, the lawyer brought up a number of media reports about Tuesday’s opening statements and further proceedings. Bluntly noting that the media reports may be talking a lot about Scientology, Olmedo said “perhaps that’s because both lawyers seem to be talking about nothing but Scientology.”
Initially clipped by Olmedo as he launched into a history of the case, Mueller cut to the chase and pointed out that Jen B had actually brought up in deposition testimony the consequences of reporting the assaults by Masterson to the church. In that previous testimony, the term “enemy” was mentioned twice by Jen B, and was framed in the context of her impressions of what did and what could happen to her.
As will likely be the case over the scope of this trial, and after rejecting yet another mistrial request made this morning, the judge reiterated her ruling of October 4 on the scope of Scientology’s presence in the trial. “The court will allow evidence and testimony on Scientology to explain the victim’s delay in reporting the incident to police,” Olmedo said earlier this month. As well, cautioning the DA to more specific in questioning go forward, the judge said, “the use of the word ‘enemy’ by itself is not prejudicial,” but inquiries must focus on matters related to the church that “makes sense to the victim’s state of mind.”
Further, the October 4 ruling permits introduction of Scientology into the trial as it pertains to the “victim’s belief” on the fallout of reporting crimes to authorities outside the church, “fear of being declared a suppressive person,” and any “fear of retaliation and harassment” victims may have.
While a 2004 settlement Jen B made with Masterson and its dollar amount can be brought up, “documents related will not be admitted.” Also, regarding the pending 2017 civil suit Jen B and other alleged victims made against Scientology and its leadership for claims of stalking and more as a result of going to the LAPD, the judge read from her ruling and said “the complaint can’t be admitted,” but the unsuccessful letter written to Scientology’s International Justice Chief by the victims seeking permission to contact the police can be.
“This is a rape case, go to the incidents,” the judge told all the lawyers. She later spoke directly to Jen B, as the court awaited the arrival of the tardy juror, and told her to keep her answers primed on the questions asked, and nothing more. “I understand,” said the witness.
The trial is expected to run until mid-November with a witness list that includes Lisa Marie Presley and Hollywood lawyer Marty Singer among others.
In many ways the Church of Scientology has been an unnamed co-defendant in the case even before jury selection began this week. The David Miscavige-led organization petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to halt the accusers’ lawsuit, but earlier this month SCOTUS declined to hear the case.