LOS ANGELES - A judge on Friday ordered “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson to stand trial on three counts of rape, stemming from alleged attacks in 2001 and 2003 at the height of the show's popularity.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo found that prosecutors met their burden, that there's enough evidence for allegations to be heard by a jury, following several days of emotional testimony from the accusers.
Masterson, a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, has denied all allegations and his defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau, has said that sex between his client and the women was consensual.
The actor showed no visible reaction when the judge ordered him to stand trial. Mesereau declined comment outside court.
Even in this #MeToo era and heightened awareness of sexual abuse in Hollywood, the trial of Masterson would mark a rare instance allegations against a well known entertainment figure would get this far.
Mesereau - best known for winning acquittals for late pop star Michael Jackson who was tried on child molestation charges in 2005 in Santa Barbara County - previewed his aggressive defense of Masterson throughout this week's dramatic preliminary hearing.
"You went over to Danny Masterson's house knowing full well you would be taking your clothes off, right?" Mesereau asked one of the accusers on Thursday,
"No," the woman, dubbed Jane Doe No. 2, said firmly.
The defense has also accused the women of coordinating their testimony, allegations that L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller rejects.
“These were not rehearsed statements,” Mueller said. “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.”
The 45-year-old Masterson remains free on on bail following his arrest in June. He's charged with three counts of rape by force or fear and faces up to 45 years behind bars if convicted on all counts.
Masterson appeared in all 200 episodes of the popular Fox sitcom between 1998 and 2006, playing alongside such well known actors as Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Topher Grace and Laura Prepon.