A woman who alleges “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson raped her at his Hollywood Hills home in 2003 cried Wednesday as she told jurors that she thought she was going to die after she tried to fight him off by grabbing his hair and pushing a pillow at him.
The prosecution’s first witness — identified in court by the initials “J.B.” — is one of three women who have accused the actor of raping them between 2001 and 2003.
In her second day on the stand, the woman told the downtown Los Angeles jury that she consumed about half of a “really sweet” and “really fruity” vodka drink that Masterson gave her and that she felt “weak” and warned that she was going to vomit after he tossed her in his hot tub on April 25, 2003. She said that Masterson took her over her objection to his master bathroom, stuck his fingers down her throat, prompting her to throw up, and then “dragged” her into the shower, where she said she swung at him as he washed her breasts with soap.
He subsequently took her to his bed, where she passed out — either asleep or unconscious, she said, adding that she recalled waking up on Masterson’s bed to find her fellow Scientology member on top of her.
The woman said she grabbed the back of his hair and pushed a pillow into a face as he penetrated her, saying that the actor shoved the pillow back in her face with all of his body weight on her and that she felt she was being “smothered.”
“I could not breathe,” she said through tears.
The woman told jurors that she subsequently lapsed again into unconsciousness and grabbed his throat after she awoke to find that he was still on top of her. She testified that Masterson grabbed her throat and that she thought “I was going to die.”
“I can’t do this,” the alleged victim said, prompting Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo to call for a five-minute break.
After the brief break, the woman testified that Masterson told her, “You like this” and warned her not to tell her friends as she had about an alleged prior incident with Masterson in 2002.
She said she saw the actor reach into a nightstand drawer and pull out a gun and that he told her to shut up after hearing noise outside the bedroom door. The woman told jurors that she crawled behind shirts in Masterson’s closet while he was out of the bedroom, eventually lost consciousness again and tried to crawl away quietly upon waking again, only to be carried back to the bed once again.
Masterson was not at the home when she awoke again later, she said.
The woman testified that she decided to go to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood station in June 2004 to report what had happened, despite concerns that she would be labeled a “suppressive person” by the Church of Scientology, of which she and Masterson were both members.
She said that she felt “scared” that Masterson wasn’t charged then, and that she subsequently signed a non-disclosure agreement in which she was paid $400,000 over a yearlong period. She said she was subsequently contacted again by Los Angeles police, and acknowledged that she has spoken to the other two alleged victims.
The woman is due back on the stand for more questioning Thursday.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Philip Kent Cohen told jurors that there was “nothing wrong with delayed reporting,” but said the three alleged victims ignored a request from police not to speak to each other or potential witnesses about their allegations. He said they were warned that they would “contaminate” the case and destroy their credibility if they did so.
“You’re going to hear (that) after being ordered, instructed, admonished by the LAPD, these women all speak to each other” as well as witnesses, Masterson’s lawyer said.
The defense attorney told jurors that the case is about “three nights with three women” and whether the prosecution can prove forcible rape — not about Scientology, church policy or whether Masterson was a “bad guy” or a “bad boyfriend.”
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told jurors that two of the three women informed church ethics officers about what had happened and were discouraged from initially reporting their rape allegations.
One of the alleged victims was told, “If you’re going to tell me it’s rape, it’s not rape,” according to the prosecutor, who noted that those who disobey the church’s edicts can be classified as a “suppressive person”
and shunned by their family and friends who are involved with the church.
Another of the alleged victims — a former longtime girlfriend of Masterson — was instructed by a church ethics officer that she was never to use the word “rape” again, the prosecutor said.
Outside the jury’s presence Tuesday, the judge told attorneys that the trial is not going to be inundated with talk about Scientology.
Masterson has been free on bail following his arrest by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division.
In December 2017, Netflix announced that Masterson had been fired from the Emmy-winning scripted comedy “The Ranch” amid sexual assault allegations.
The actor said then that he was “very disappointed” and “it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.” He also “denied the outrageous allegations” and said he looked forward to “clearing my name once and for all.”
A civil suit filed in August 2019 against Masterson and the Church of Scientology by the three women involved in the criminal case and one woman who was not a member of the church alleges they were stalked and harassed after filing sexual assault allegations against the actor with Los Angeles police.
The District Attorney’s Office declined to file sexual assault charges against Masterson in two other alleged incidents, citing insufficient evidence on one and the statute of limitations on the other.