Prosecution plans to call 1996 victim in Danny Masterson trial
At a courtroom in Los Angeles yesterday, the two sides preparing for Danny Masterson's rape trial that is scheduled to begin next week spent the day fighting over what evidence will be allowed in.
Numerous potential witnesses were discussed who will provide testimony for each of the three counts of forcible rape. The three victims are referred to in the case as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, and Jane Doe 3, although Jane Doe 3 has identified herself publicly as Chrissie Carnell-Bixler, saying that she felt forced to go public with her name after it was given to the press by Masterson’s publicist when news of the investigation first broke in 2017.
When the DA’s office charged Masterson with raping the three women in incidents that had taken place between 2001 and 2003, the charging papers revealed that the DA had also considered, but didn’t charge, on allegations by two other women.
One of those women alleged that she had been sexually abused by Masterson in 1996, when he would have been only about 20 years old.
Yesterday, one of the many issues that both sides argued over was that the prosecutor, Deputy DA Reinhold Mueller, plans to bring that 1996 victim into the courtroom.
She was referred to by Mueller as an "1108" witness, also known as a "prior bad acts" witness. (We are holding back this witness’s name because of the nature of her allegations.)
According to the prosecution, this witness, who was never a Scientologist, will testify that in 1996 she felt drugged when she was with Masterson, and twice woke up to find him penetrating her.
Masterson’s criminal defense attorney Philip Cohen objected, claiming that the witness did not characterize the incident as rape but merely "really shitty behavior."
Judge Olmedo did not immediately rule on the matter, and will save her rulings after a second day of arguments today that will set the parameters of the trial, which is scheduled to begin in a week.
Another thing we learned from yesterday’s hearing is that the prosecution has a long list of witnesses it plans to call. Cohen complained that the list contained 12 law enforcement officials, 18 civilians, and two experts.
Earlier we told you that one of those experts is former Sea Org official Claire Headley. We also learned the identity of the second expert: Mindy Mechanic, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Cal State Fullerton, and an expert on mental health consequences of violence. She will testify about the delay in reporting from Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3.
Masterson was in attendance at the hearing, even though he wasn’t required to be. And along with him was a new member of his legal team, Karen L. Goldstein. She objected to Mechanic's inclusion, saying that it would prejudice the jury to have an expert when the words of Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3 are sufficient.
Goldstein also objected to Claire Headley, pointing out that she had sued Scientology and had appeared on Leah Remini’s show, and she said that Claire was "clearly not an unbiased person."
The prosecution responded that Claire would be testifying specifically to help understand Scientology language and documents, not about her own experiences.
The defense also objected to the prosecution’s plan to bring in evidence about more than 20 instances of harassment of the victims since they came forward to the LAPD in 2016.
The prosecution responded that although they actually have evidence of many more instances than that, for the trial they plan only to go through a couple of them, such as the death of two dogs owned by Jane Doe 3.
The defense also wants to keep out Masterson’s DJ name at the time of the incidents, “DJ Donkey Punch,” and the prosecution indicated that it didn’t plan to bring it up unless the defense did at some point.
The defense also wants to keep out any mention of a man Jane Doe 2 accused of raping her before Masterson did. If you remember from our interview of Jane Doe 2 in 2017 (we called her “Victim C” then), she said she didn’t report her alleged rape by Masterson to either the police or the church because of how the church had handled the previous incident. The prosecution does want to go into this matter during the trial.
Earlier in the day, as we reported, the defense had asked for a delay in the trial because of mayoral candidate Rick Caruso’s campaign ads criticizing Scientology.
Cohen told Judge Olmedo that Caruso’s ads, and statements by his opponent Karen Bass that she was against Scientology’s practices, was creating an environment that would make it difficult for Masterson to get a fair trial. He said that polls had indicated that Scientology was “the most nefarious, notorious religion.” And every time it was mentioned, it would distract the jury from what he characterized as really just a simple case of “he said, she said.”
Judge Olmedo responded by asking if using the word “Scientology” was more inflammatory than evidence regarding gangs, white supremacy, or serial killers, which was all evidence that came into her cases without being excluded from court.
She said she would rule on the matter after today’s session.
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