‘That 70s Show’ actor Danny Masterson has been charged with raping three women in separate incidents in 2001 and 2003, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said on Wednesday.
A warrant was filed against Masterson, 44, on Tuesday for three counts of rape by force in connection with allegations of assault of three different women from 2001 to 2003, according to a release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
However, the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that it had declined to file sexual assault charges against Masterson in two other cases because of insufficient evidence and because of the statute of limitations.
The three counts of rape by force or fear come after a three-year investigation of the 44-year-old Masterson. The charges were filed Tuesday and Masterson was arrested late Wednesday morning, jail records showed. He was released a few hours later after posting a bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on 18 September.
Masterson is accused of raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December of 2001 and a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 in his home and a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 in his home. A different 23-year-old woman alleges that Masterson raped her after he invited her to his home in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood sometime from October to December 2003, the prosecutor’s office said.
The women are considered victims of sexual assault and were not named in the district attorney’s release.
Masterson’s attorney Tom Mesereau said his client “is innocent, we’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify”.
“Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out,“ Mesereau said in a statement. “The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.”
Masterson’s attorney said Masterson is innocent and will be exonerated.
The alleged victims in a statement distributed by their attorneys said in part, “all we have wanted was justice, accountability, and truth.”
The alleged rapes took place at the height of Masterson’s fame as he starred on the retro sitcom That ’70s Show alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Topher Grace. The series ran on Fox TV from 1998 to 2006 and has had a long afterlife in reruns.
He faces a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison if he is convicted on all three charges. Masterson has been married to the actor and model Bijou Phillips since 2011.
He had reunited with Kutcher on the Netflix western sitcom The Ranch when the LAPD investigation of him was revealed in March 2017. The news did not have immediate career repercussions for Masterson, but later in the year, after allegations against Harvey Weinstein shook the film industry, he was written off the show.
It is unclear whether those allegations are related to the charges announced Wednesday.
“I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix’s decision to write my character off of ‘The Ranch.’ From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me,” Masterson said in a statement to NBC News in 2017. “Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit.”
Los Angeles prosecutors have begun efforts to bring Weinstein to California to face charges of rape and sexual assault. He is being held in a New York prison after being convicted of similar charges earlier this year.
The accusations against Masterson became public amid the beginning stages of the #MeToo movement when victims were encouraged to speak out against sexual harassment and misconduct perpetrated by powerful figures.