The Ranch alum, Danny Masterson made his first court appearance on Friday for charges related to allegedly raping three women. Attorney Tom Mesereau, who also represented Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson, said his client is innocent and said the charges were "politicized." The That '70s Show star was charged with three counts of rape by force or fear, and prosecutors say he raped three women between 2001 and 2003.
Masterson was arrested in June and had been out on bail before Friday's arraignment. He did not enter a plea and only spoke to answer questions from the judge, reports The Associated Press. Mesereau accused Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey of charging his client because he faces pressure before an election. "There have been repeated attempts to politicize this case," the attorney said. "He is absolutely not guilty and we’re going to prove it." Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller called Mesereau's comments "pure speculation."
Superior Court Judge Miguel T. Espinoza approved media requests to bring cameras into the courtroom, despite Mesereau's concerns that would taint the jury pool. The judge also denied a request from Masterson's team for a protective order to seal case files and stopping police, prosecutors and possible witnesses from giving information on the case to the media. However, Espinoza said he would reconsider this in the future. The defense also asked Espinoza to throw out the criminal complaint because they believe it is insufficient. There will be another hearing on that issue before Masterson enters a plea.
Prosecutors say Masterson allegedly raped a 23-year-old woman in 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April 2003, and a 23-year-old woman between October and December 2003. All three alleged rapes happened at Masterson's house. If he is convicted, Masterson could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison. The women, who attended the hearing, were not named in the criminal complaint. They did not speak with reporters after the hearing.
Actress Leah Remini, an outspoken critic of Scientology, attended the hearing to support the women, reports The Daily Mail. Chrissie Bixler, who accused Masterson of attacking her in 2001 when they were dating, was featured in Remini's Scientology and the Aftermath series. Bixler claimed a member of the Church of Scientology told her it was "not rape if you've been in a consensual relationship. The Church of Scientology, which Masterson belongs to, denied Bixler told them about her allegations and did not retaliate against her, reports USA Today.
After Masterson was arrested in June, Remini celebrated the news on Twitter. "Finally, victims are being heard when it comes to Scientology! Praise the Lord! This is just the beginning Scientology, your days of getting away with it is coming to an end," she wrote.