Danny Masterson’s attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf on Wednesday to three counts of rape, a charge that could send the “That 70s Show” actor to prison for 45 years to life.
Masterson was charged on June 17 with raping three women at his home between 2001 and 2003. His arraignment has been repeatedly delayed since June. He was not required to attend the hearing in person, and did not appear. The case is due back in court on March 24 for a hearing on pretrial motions.
In October, Masterson’s attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have the case thrown out, arguing that the allegations were beyond the statute of limitations. Judge Eleanor Hunter denied that motion, finding there is no statute of limitations for so-called “one strike” sex offenses.
Ordinarily, a rape charge is punishable by up to eight years in prison. But Masterson was charged under a California law that allows sentences of up to 15 years to life for certain violent sex crimes.
In Masterson’s case, prosecutors have alleged the “aggravating factor” that there were multiple victims, so jurors would have to convict on at least two of the counts in order for the enhanced penalty to kick in.
Masterson is accused of raping a 23-year-old woman between January 2001 and December 2001; raping a 28-year-old woman in April 2003; and raping a 23-year-old woman between October 2003 and December 2003.
The victims are not identified in the complaint, but the allegations track closely with a lawsuit that four women filed in August 2019, accusing Masterson and the Church of Scientology of trying to cover up their claims. The suit alleged they had been stalked and harassed for taking their allegations to the Los Angeles Police Department. Masterson and the Church each denied the allegations, with Masterson saying he was being “railroaded” by his ex-girlfriend.
A judge ruled in December that the lawsuit must go through a religious arbitration process run by the Church of Scientology.