IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Danny Masterson’s ex-lawyers are sanctioned for sharing info with a lawyer for the Church of Scientology

The lawyers were fined for sharing discovery materials from his criminal case with an attorney who was defending the church in a separate civil suit filed by Masterson’s accusers.
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now

Two lawyers who used to represent “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson have been hit with fines after a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled they leaked confidential information about Masterson’s rape victims to the Church of Scientology’s lawyer.

Thomas Mesereau and his co-counsel, Sharon Applebaum, were sanctioned Wednesday, a week after Masterson was convicted of raping two women he met through the church, to which he still belongs.

Judge Charlaine Olmedo, who presided over both of Masterson’s criminal trials, hit Mesereau and Applebaum with fines for sharing discovery materials from the criminal case with Vicki Podberesky, an attorney who was defending the church in a separate civil suit filed by Masterson’s accusers, according to court documents. The court says the lawyers were aware of the court’s “repeated directives and orders to refrain from providing criminal discovery to litigants and attorney’s in the civil case.”

Danny Masterson with his lawyers Thomas Mesereau and Sharon Appelbaum as he is arraigned on three rape charges in separate incidents in 2001 and 2003, at Los Angeles Superior Court on  Sept. 18, 2020.
Danny Masterson with his lawyers Thomas Mesereau and Sharon Appelbaum at Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2020.Lucy Nicholson / AFP via Getty Images pool file

Neither Mesereau nor Applebaum represented Masterson at either of his criminal trials — the first of which ended in November in a mistrial and the second of which ended in May with his being convicted of raping two of the three women he was charged with sexually assaulting decades ago.

Mesereau and Applebaum represented Masterson when he was first arrested and accused in 2020 of raping three women at his home in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles from 2001 to 2003. Mesereau and Applebaum had “sole possession of the criminal discovery” from at least September 2020 through November 2021, after which they continued to represent him, along with additional counsel, through May 2022, according to court documents.

Later, Mesereau and Applebaum were replaced by attorneys Philip Cohen, Shawn Holley and Karen Goldstein, who have denied sharing information with Podberesky. The court said it did not find any violations of its orders by Cohen, Holley and Goldstein, according to the court documents.

Among other things, Olmedo ruled that Mesereau and Applebaum gave Podberesky and church officials the addresses of the women Masterson was later convicted of raping, along with confidential police reports.

The women claimed in their testimony in the criminal case that the Church of Scientology harassed them after they went to the police with rape allegations about Masterson.

Podberesky used the information to lodge a complaint that the lead prosecutors in Masterson’s rape trial were soliciting false testimony to convict him.

Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said at Wednesday’s hearing that most of the discovery Podberesky obtained was produced by investigators from March to December 2021, when Mesereau was Masterson’s lead counsel.

Mesereau, who is famous for successfully defending Michael Jackson and other celebrities, and Applebaum issued no statements after Olmedo slapped them with $950 in fines Wednesday. Both have been asked by email for comment.

Podberesky said that “no one on the Masterson defense team or myself did anything wrong.”

“There was never an order prohibiting the sharing of discovery, a protective order, nor any clear statement by the court to that affect that I am aware of,” Podberesky said in an email. “None of the citations to the record set forth in the court’s order support the conclusion that there was a prohibition on the sharing of information between civil and criminal counsel.”

Asked in a follow-up question whether she was still representing the Church of Scientology in the civil case, Podberesky did not immediately respond. 

Masterson’s accusers have complained that church officials repeatedly harassed them, going as far as poisoning their dogs. Olmedo insisted repeatedly that the Church of Scientology was not on trial.

Church spokeswoman Karin Pouw has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and insisted that church doctrine requires members to “abide by all the laws of the land.”

Asked about the latest development, Pouw referred a reporter to the final paragraph of a statement the church released the same day Masterson was convicted. It states:

"There is not a scintilla of evidence supporting the scandalous allegations that the Church harassed the accusers. Every single instance of supposed harassment by the Church is FALSE, and has been debunked."

Masterson, 47, faces 30 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 4.