Former The Ranch actor Danny Masterson will not be arraigned on rape charges until after the new year, a Los Angeles judge ruled Monday. Masterson was charged with three counts of rape by force or fear, as prosecutors allege he raped three women between 2001 and 2003. His attorney, Tom Mesereau, has called the charges "politically motivated," a claim he made again in the latest hearing in the case.
The new arraignment was scheduled for Jan. 6, reports the New York Daily News. The 44-year-old former That '70s Show actor did not attend the hearing himself, and Mesereau said his client permitted him to make decisions on his behalf. Monday's hearing was initially supposed to be Masterson's arraignment. Still, the judge agreed to delay it for two months because of new evidence prosecutors have not shared with the defense yet.
At the beginning of the hearing, Mesereau asked the media to be removed. “We think this case has already had enough publicity sufficient to prejudice any jury pool that might have to be picked at some point," the attorney, who previously represented Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson, said. "There's been politics behind the case, in our opinion. We think it's a politically motivated case." Mesereau did not explain why he believed the case is political, but Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey is running for re-election on Tuesday.
Masterson last appeared in court in September and did not enter a plea at that time. He only answered questions from the judge, who agreed to allow cameras into the courtroom. At that time, Mesereau said he was concerned this would sway potential jurors. In another hearing last month, a judge ruled that the case could continue after rejecting Masterson's attorneys' argument that the allegations were too old to be prosecuted. Masterson is not in custody, having posted a $3.3 million bail after his arrest in June. Masteron is "absolutely not guilty," Mesereau said when the charges were announced.
According to prosecutors, Masterson allegedly raped a 23-year-old woman in 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April 2003,and a 23-year-old woman in late 2003. The rapes allegedly happened at Masterson's house. If he is convicted, Masterson could face up to 45 years in prison.
The actor is best known for playing Steven Hyde on That '70s Show and Jameson "Rooster" Bennett on Netflix's The Ranch, with Ashton Kutcher co-starring in both shows. In March 2017, four women filed sexual assault allegations against him, which led to a police investigation. In December 2017, Netflix fired him from The Ranch, and the series continued without him.