Fans of the Fox television program That ’70s Show will likely be shocked to discover that one of its stars has been accused of horrific crime.
On Friday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo ordered actor Daniel Masterson, 45, to face trial for allegations that he raped multiple women nearly 20 years ago, The Associated Press reported.
Masterson, who played the character Steven Hyde on the Fox program, has been indicted by prosecutors on three counts of rape by force or fear. If he is convicted, Masterson could spend up to 45 years behind bars.
Attorney says women’s stories inconsistent
Masterson has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys said that inconsistencies in the stories of his accusers would ultimately exonerate him. Among his lawyers is Sharon Appelbaum, who said, “Memories fade and memories change,” according to the AP.
She suggested that the women’s “stories are becoming more similar to one another,” adding, “They’re taking the language of one another.”
Masterson’s lead attorney, Thomas Mesereau, gained prominence for his past defense of celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby.
Mesereau contended that religious bigotry has played a role in the case against his client, as Masterson practices Scientology while the three women who are accusing him have all left the religion.
Appelbaum echoed that contention, suggesting that the alleged victims have come together to form a “sisterhood” that “seems to want to take down Mr. Masterson and take down Scientology,” according to the AP.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller categorically rejected such claims, insisting that the women’s stories “were not rehearsed statements.”
“They were heartfelt, and they each had their versions of what happened. If there is any consistency in these statements, it was because the defendant was consistent in these acts,” he said.
One accuser claimed that Masterson raped her at gunpoint at his home in 2004. In response, Masterson’s lawyers noted that no mention was made of a firearm in the woman’s initial police report.
The attorneys also observed that the three accusers have filed a lawsuit, citing that as evidence that the women concocted the allegations for monetary reasons. Prosecutors responded that the suit was filed as a result of harassment that the alleged victims have received from members of Masterson’s church.