A Timeline of Danny Masterson’s Trial, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis’ Character Letters
A judge sentenced “That ’70s show” actor Danny Masterson, 47, to 30 years to life in prison last week for raping two women. Los Angeles judge Charlaine F. Olmedo gave Masterson the maximum allowable sentence, following statements from his accusers.
“I knew he belonged behind bars for the safety of all the women he came into contact with,” one of the accusers said in court. “I wish I’d reported him sooner to the police.”
Masterson will be eligible for parole in 25 and a half years.
As per The Hollywood Reporter, prosecutors argued that Masterson drugged his victims. Meanwhile, during the trial, accusers recalled details of their rapes.
According to the outlet, one victim said she woke up in bed to the actor sexually assaulting her in 2003. She also said that he choked her and put a gun to her head when she tried to make him stop.
Now that the judge has sentenced Masterson, people are directing their attention to another issue. Prior to the sentencing, more than 50 people wrote character letters in support of the actor, including fellow “That ’70s Show” costars Ashton Kutcher, 45, and Mila Kunis, 40. Many now question why the actors would support Masterson, with some people calling their letters “disgusting.”
As one X user put it, they were especially shocked by Kutcher and Kunis “praising Danny Masterson for his commitment to a drug-free lifestyle” in their character letters, when he allegedly “used drugs to incapacitate his victims.”
Here is everything to know about Masterson’s conviction, as well as Kutcher and Kunis’s divisive character letters for him.
Masterson’s initial rape trial in 2022 ended in a jury deadlock and mistrial
Back in June 2020, authorities charged Masterson with raping three women between 2001 and 2003. As per BBC, the actor had two other accusers, but authorities had insufficient evidence to file charges on their behalf.
At the time, Masterson denied the charges, with his lawyer releasing a statement that read, “Mr. Masterson and his wife [Bijou Phillips] are in complete shock.”
“Ultimately the truth will come out,” his legal team said. Meanwhile, the actor stated, “I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
The actor’s initial rape trial took place in November 2022, ending in a jury deadlock and mistrial. Although the accusers gave vivid depictions of their sexual assaults, jurors were not able to find Masterson guilty.
As per The Los Angeles Times, both Masterson and his accusers were all members of the Church of Scientology at the time of the sexual assaults. Two of the women said they did not come forward sooner because they feared backlash from the church. They have all since left the institution.
One victim, referred to in the trial as Christina B., was Masterson’s girlfriend for six years, between the late 1990s and early 2000s. She recounted him raping her in her sleep. She also said that, upon waking up, she pulled his hair in resistance. The accuser said that Masterson then slapped her and spit on her.
The prosecutors in the trial alleged that the Church of Scientology “protected” Masterson, which the church denied.
One accuser, Jen B., explained during the initial trial, “I was a Scientologist and Mr. Masterson is a Scientologist, and you cannot report another Scientologist in good standing to the authorities.”
“My life would be over. My parents would have to disconnect from me,” she recalled. “I couldn’t talk to any of my friends ever again… I wouldn’t have anywhere to work or live.”
After the second trial, jurors found Masterson guilty of two of three counts of rape
By May of this year, Masterson was tried in court once again. Jurors found the actor guilty on two of three counts of rape, with Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón saying at the time: “We want to express our gratitude to the three women who came forward and bravely shared their experiences.”
As per AP, the second trial lasted two weeks, with prosecutors alleging that the actor drugged and raped three women in the early 2000s. They also once again mentioned the Church of Scientology as an institution that protected him from punishment. Meanwhile, his legal team said Masterson obtained consent for the sexual acts.
During the trial, the accusers said church officials told them they had not been raped, and discouraged them from coming forward. In fact, one accuser recalled during the trials how a church official told her a significant other cannot “rape” you.
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said during the trial that the victims “were raped, they were punished for it, and they were retaliated against.”
“Scientology told them there’s no justice for them,” he added. Still, the church responded with full force to the accusations, saying they were “uniformly false.”
Last week, Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo declared Masterson’s sentence, giving him 30 years to life in prison.
Olmedo told him during the sentencing, “Mr. Masterson, you are not the victim here. Your actions 20 years ago took away another person’s voice, and choice.”
One of the victims also said in court: “I don’t have to carry your shame around with me anymore… Now you have to hold that shame. You have to sit in a cell and hold it.” Another woman directed herself at Masterson, “When you raped me, you stole from me…That’s what rape is, a theft of the spirit.”
Meanwhile, Masterson’s lawyers stated they plan to appeal.
Here’s what to know about the controversy regarding those character letters
Ahead of Masterson’s sentencing, more than 50 people wrote character letters to support the actor. These letters, intended for the judge to read, painted the “That ’70s Show” actor as a “steadfast and loyal friend,” a “leader,” “big brother to everyone,” “role model,” “dedicated” husband, and “hands-on dad” to his 9-year-old daughter.
The list of people who wrote character letters included his friends, family, and “That ’70s Show” costars, including Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.
Kutcher and Kunis’s letters, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, depict their once-costar as “nothing but a positive influence.”
Kutcher wrote, “[Masterson] instantly became a friend, dedicated co-worker, and role model to me.”
The “No Strings Attached” actor called Masterson “an extraordinarily honest and intentional human being,” writing, “I attribute not falling into the typical Hollywood life of drugs directly to Danny.”
“Any time that we were to meet someone or interact with someone who was on drugs, or did drugs, he made it clear that that wouldn’t be a good person to be friends with,” Kutcher explained. Still, some are now finding that part especially ironic, considering victims said Masterson drugged them prior to the rapes.
Kutcher also wrote, “Danny had his daughter a year before I had mine. He set a standard of being a hands on dad.”
“He is among a few people I would trust to be alone with my son and daughter,” he added. “I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society and having his daughter raised without a present father would be a tertiary injustice.”
“I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing.”
Meanwhile, Kutcher’s wife Mila Kunis was just as supportive of Masterson in her own letter. Calling him a “dear friend,” she wrote that Masterson had “a remarkable influence” on her life.
“From the very beginning, I could sense his innate goodness and genuine nature,” she said. “Danny has proven to be an amazing friend, confidant, and above all, an outstanding older brother figure to me.” Kunis also noted Masterson’s “unwavering commitment to discouraging the use of drugs.”
“Danny played a pivotal role in guiding me away from such destructive paths,” she added. “Witnessing his interactions with his daughter has been heartwarming and enlightening.” In her letter, Kunis also described Masterson’s “warmth,” “humor,” and “sense of responsibility and care.”
Now, people are questioning why Kutcher and Kunis would defend or support Masterson. One X user put it like this: “If literally any man I know was convicted of rape and I was asked to write a letter supporting sentencing leniency, I would simply say ‘No.'”
Kutcher and Kunis responded to the backlash over their letter, saying, “We support victims”
Kutcher and wife Kunis took to Instagram to respond to the outcry over their character letters for Masterson.
The “Butterfly Effect” actor started with, “We are aware of the pain that has been caused by the character letters we wrote on behalf of Danny Masterson.”
“Danny’s family reached out to us and they asked us to write character letters to represent the person that we knew for 25 years,” Kutcher explained. “So that the judge could take that into full consideration.”
“They were intended for the judge to read, and not to undermine the testimony of the victims, or re-traumatize them in any way,” he said. “And we are sorry if that has taken place.”
Kunis added, “We support victims. We have done this historically through our work, and will continue to do so in the future.”
“Our heart goes out to every single person that has ever been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or rape.”
While they turned off the comments on their Instagram post, backlash to their apology has been swift. For one, one of Masterson’s accusers, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, wrote on Instagram Stories, “Dear Ashton, I know the secrets your ‘role model’ [Masterson] keeps for you. Ones that would end you.”
“In my opinion, you’re just a sick as your ‘mentor,'” she wrote, hinting at foul play in connection to the 2001 death of Ashley Ellerin, a woman Kutcher was dating at the time. “You were on speaker phone that night you called Danny on February 21, 2001. I heard everything.”
While it is unclear what Bixler meant by that, we do know that Kutcher arrived to pick up Ellerin on the night of February 21, 2001, to go out for drinks. Ellerin did not answer the door, and Kutcher allegedly saw what he thought was a “wine stain” through her window.
“I saw what I thought was red wine spilled on the carpet,” Kutcher later said in a testimony. “But that wasn’t alarming because I went to her house party [days before] and it was like a college party. I didn’t think much about it.”
The next day, one of her roommates found her dead, with 47 stab wounds. Meanwhile, Kutcher took it upon himself to reach out to the police, and they later ruled him out as a suspect.
Authorities later convicted the “Hollywood Ripper,” Michael Gargiulo, for Ellerin’s murder, as well as one other murder charge and attempted murder count.
Interestingly, Kunis and Kutcher’s character letters have opened up a can of worms— even beyond Ellerin’s tragic death.
Bixler added in her damning IG Story that Kunis’s old interviews “are very telling.” She said, “I pray you begin to process what you experienced as a child on [the set of ‘That ’70s Show’].”
What did she mean by that? Well, just take a look at this resurfaced 2002 interview of Kutcher and Kunis:
In it, Kutcher explains, “When [Kunis] was 14 when we started the show, I was like 19, and [showrunners] were like, ‘Okay, you guys are going to be making out in this scene.'”
Noting he felt the kiss was “slightly illegal,” Kunis noted that he was her “first kiss.” She still said that she was “a 14-year-old little girl” and was “extremely scared.”
Even worse? She recalled in the interview how Masteron made a bet with Kutcher regarding the kiss. “Danny goes to him, ‘Dude, I’ll give you $10 if you French kiss her.”
Kutcher admitted, “We had a little side bet going.”
Similarly, one X user resurfaced an old “Punk’d” episode, where Kutcher talks about then-15-year-old Hillary Duff:
“[Hillary Duff] is one of the girls that we’re all waiting for to turn 18, along with the Olsen twins.”
Along with public backlash over Kutcher and Kunis’s character letters, and Kutcher’s past, one celebrity is speaking out.
Actress Christina Ricci seemed to hit back at the celebrity couple’s letters for Masterson. She wrote on Instagram, “Unfortunately, I’ve known lots of ‘awesome guys’ who were lovely to me but have been proven to be abusers privately. I’ve also had personal experience with this. Believe victims.”
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