LOS ANGELES — A woman who has accused Danny Masterson of violently raping her broke down in court on Wednesday as she described how she came in and out of consciousness as the That '70s Show actor allegedly assaulted her.
Speaking in graphic detail, the woman, who is being referred to by her initials, J.B., testified through tears that she woke up multiple times to find Masterson on top of her penetrating her vaginally without her consent at his Hollywood Hills home early in the morning on April 25, 2003.
The first time, she said, she reached up and grabbed the hair on the back of his head to try to get him to stop, but he quickly removed her hand and continued to rape her. J.B. then grabbed a pillow from behind her neck and smashed it into his face to try to push him away, she testified, but that also didn’t work.
“He shoved it back in my face harder and I — completely with all this body weight on me just smothered,” J.B. said, struggling to get the words out as she cried. “I could not breathe. I couldn't breathe.”
She said after that, she lost consciousness, and when she came to again, the pillow was no longer on her face but Masterson was still on top of her. This time, she testified, she grabbed onto his throat; his face was inches away from her and looked angry as she’d never seen him before.
“He was so scary,” J.B. said. According to her, he then pulled her hand off his throat.
“His face, I’d never seen it look like that,” she testified.
Holding her hands down with one of his hands, Masterson then wrapped his other hand around her throat, she said, and “squeezed really hard.”
“I thought that I was going to die,” she said, shaking as she cried. “He’s going to kill me.”
J.B. is one of three women Masterson, 46, a celebrity Scientologist who is best known for playing Steven Hyde on That '70s Show, is charged with raping by force or fear at his Hollywood Hills home in 2001 and 2003. The women, who are all former Scientologists, say that in each incident, Masterson supplied them with alcohol, and when they became disoriented, he took them upstairs to his bedroom and violently raped them.
Masterson has pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed that he had only consensual sex with the women. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years to life in prison.
As J.B. described the 2003 incident on the witness stand, Masterson stared at her from across the room, at times resting his face on his hand.
She testified that she had not intended to end up at the actor's house that night but went there with a friend to pick keys to the home of Brie Shaffer, her best friend and Masterson's assistant. She'd planned to sleep at there before taking Shaffer to the airport early in the morning.
But they couldn't locate the keys, she said, so J.B. and her friend planned to crash on Masterson's couch until they could connect with Shaffer. But then Masterson brought J.B. a drink, she said, and after she had consumed about half of it, forced her into his jacuzzi. While sitting in the water, J.B. said she noticed her vision had become blurry, and she felt nauseous but was unable to pull herself out of the hot tub. Masterson then took her upstairs and stuck his fingers down her throat as she vomited into his toilet, she testified. After getting her in the shower, Masterson laid her down on his bed. She said she passed out until being woken up by the pain of him penetrating her vagina.
In the middle of her testimony, J.B. began crying and shaking uncontrollably, saying, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo paused the proceedings for several minutes, then the testimony continued.
Earlier on Wednesday, J.B. testified about the aftermath of a September 2002 incident in which she said Masterson penetrated her anally without her consent. After that incident, which is not charged in this case, she said she told a number of her and Masterson’s mutual friends who were members of the Church of Scientology — including Lisa Marie Presley, who left the church in 2014, and Shaffer.
She said Presley was shocked, and Shaffer was upset — not with Masterson, but with J.B.
“It was her boss that I was speaking ill of,” J.B. said.
She added several of her friends wrote and submitted what she called “knowledge reports” to Scientology officials for “upsetting the group.” She said it was her understanding that members would write these reports when they had “relevant information about something that was nonideal,” so church officials could then call people in to take “steps to fix what we did wrong or to stop us from doing that again.” As a result, J.B. said, she was summoned to the church’s ethics office and underwent “ethics programs” over several weeks in which she was “pressured” to make amends with Masterson and other members.
She testified that she was also told to “take responsibility” for what happened and stop blaming Masterson or holding him responsible for what she says he did.
J.B. said church officials told her “to look at my actions, what I did wrong, and how I was probably not an unwilling participant.”
When Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller asked whether that instruction surprised her, she said it didn’t because she understood from growing up in Scientology that “you can never be a victim.”
“Nothing ever happens to you that you didn't cause,” J.B. testified. “No matter how horrible, no matter what happens to you, you are responsible. You created that.”
Jurors have been instructed by the court to not take witnesses’ testimony about Scientology and its practices as fact but to only consider them in order to judge their credibility. Even so, the church, which has been heavily scrutinized for its beliefs, secrecy, and alleged physically and financially abusive practices, is expected to play a prominent role in the proceedings. During opening statements, Mueller narrowed in on several rules and terms used by the church to show how Masterson escaped accountability for so long and why the women initially feared turning to law enforcement.
Following the alleged assault in 2003, J.B. said she went to the ethics office and spoke with the same official she had talked to after the 2002 incident.
It was during this meeting that the official warned her against using the word "rape," she testified during a preliminary hearing last year. On Wednesday, she referenced the warning by stating that "he corrected a word that I used."
It wasn't until over a year later in June 2004 that J.B. first reported the incident to the Los Angeles Police Department. She testified that she didn't go to the police sooner because in the church community "you cannot report another Scientologist in good standing," as she understood Masterson was, to the authorities.
"I immediately would be guilty of a high crime," J.B. said. The penalty for which was "expulsion" from the church, meaning that no members could speak or have any contact with her. For J.B. that meant being cut off from her parents, who were also Scientologists and who she lived with and worked for, and all of her friends.
"My life would be over," she testified, choking up again. "My parents would have to disconnect from me. My daughter couldn't go to ... school. I couldn't talk to my friends ever again. ... I wouldn't have anywhere to work or live."
Prior to reaching out to the LAPD, J.B. said, she sought permission from the church's international justice chief to press criminal charges against Masterson, but her request was denied. After talking to police, J.B. said, she assumed that an order to declare her a "suppressive person," or what prosecutors described to the jury as an enemy of the church, had been prepared and that she was to accept it unless there was another way to fix the issue.
That's when, she testified, that her father and a church attorney offered her the option to enter into a nondisclosure agreement. The details of that agreement are not to be discussed in court under a previous ruling by the judge, but as part of the terms J.B. was paid $400,000. She said that in her eyes, her options were to sign the agreement or essentially "end [her] existence" and "go get declared."
No charges were ultimately filed against Masterson in relation to J.B.'s 2004 complaint. She testified that she was first contacted in 2016 about the police investigation that resulted in the current charges.
When asked by Mueller whether she had any concerns about testifying in these proceedings, J.B. said she thinks she's broken the NDA "about 50 times" and could face financial penalties as a result. He followed up by asking whether she feared any retaliation or harassment from other members of the church.
"Half this courtroom," J.B. said without pause. As she spoke, Masterson's wife, actor Bijou Phillips, as well as his siblings, and other family members and friends were among those seated in the court gallery.
J.B. is expected to continue testifying on Thursday morning under cross-examination by Masterson's attorney.