THE WITNESS: Damian Perkins opens up about how the case against Danny Masterson began
On March 19, 2015 at 9:44 in the morning, actor and dancer Damian Perkins received a text message on his phone from someone he had known only peripherally at the Church of Scientology’s Hollywood Celebrity Centre.
It was the woman who would later come to be known as Jane Doe 3 in the criminal prosecution of That ‘70s Show actor Danny Masterson, which has him facing 30 years to life in prison after he was convicted on two counts of forcible rape in a Los Angeles courtroom on May 31. But on this day eight years earlier, she was reaching out to Perkins for a very different reason.
She wanted to know what he could tell her about another Scientologist at the Celebrity Centre, a young woman named Brianna.
Perkins, in fact, had known Brianna well: In the mid-1990s he led a group of young Scientologists that called itself Kids on Stage for a Better World. Perkins himself also performed with the group and appeared in its videos for a few years. (The group lasted from 1992 to 2012 and included such future stars of stage and television as Elisabeth Moss and Erika Christensen.)
It had been years since Perkins had seen Brianna. Although he had grown up in Scientology he had separated himself from it around five years before, in 2010, but he definitely remembered her.
Why was Jane Doe 3 asking?
She explained that she and her husband were in a bizarre situation. They had hired Brianna to be nanny to their toddlers, 2-year-old twin boys.
Brianna had gotten into an accident with the twin boys in her car, Jane Doe 3 said, and had acted bizarrely.
“Witnesses said she got out of my car and stayed out of the car while my babies cried in the back seat for an hour. She never checked on them once,” Jane Doe 3 messaged him.
Confused and angry, Jane Doe 3 wanted to know more about Brianna, and had remembered that Perkins had been associated with her at the Celebrity Centre.
And while he told her what little he knew, Perkins says a thought came to him completely out of the blue. Even today, he says, he isn’t sure what possessed him to bring it up.
When he had known Jane Doe 3 briefly at the Celebrity Centre years before, she was dating Masterson. (As we learned in the two trials of the actor, she was dating him between 1996 and 2002.)
“Out of the blue I asked her, and I don’t know why I asked her this, ‘Hey, by the way, I’m looking for my friend, I think something happened to her. Did Danny ever hurt you?’”
He says he was floored by Jane Doe 3’s response, that Masterson had, in fact, raped her.
It would be another year before Perkins would have the opportunity to put Jane Doe 3 in touch with the friend he was looking for, a woman who would become known as Jane Doe 1, and they began talking about what they had in common: Danny Masterson was a serial rapist, they realized, and now they understood that he had victimized multiple women.
The reason that Damian Perkins knew that his friend, Jane Doe 1, had also been victimized by Masterson was that he was there the night of her attack, at Masterson’s Hollywood Hills home in the early morning hours of April 25, 2003.
Perkins, in fact, was the only percipient witness in the entire case besides Masterson and his victims, someone who didn’t just have knowledge of what the victims had said after the fact, but who was actually at one of the incidents and was prepared to testify about it.
He was never called to testify in either of the trials, even though, he says, he was targeted for harassment by Scientology, and has endured years of anxiety and damage because of it.
And throughout that period, through seven years of investigations and hearings and two trials, he has kept quiet about how the case against Masterson first started.
But now, with Masterson in jail awaiting an August 4 sentencing, and relieved that years of waiting for justice for his friends has finally paid off, he told us he wanted to say publicly what he knows.
Damian Jean Neptune was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1974 to Patricia Ann Murdoch, a white woman whose parents were scandalized that she had married a black man, Jean Neptune, whose family was from Haiti.
Trish and Jean had met at a dance hall in Paterson where they had become known for winning competitions. They also had a friend who talked to them about Scientology, and the young couple were sucked into it.
In 1977, When Damian was only three years old, Trish and Jean moved to Los Angeles to join Scientology’s inner elite, the “Sea Organization,” signing billion-year contracts and promising to work for founder L. Ron Hubbard lifetime after lifetime.
But Jean soon soured on it and moved back east, splitting with Trish in 1979.
By that time Trish was a chaplain in the Sea Org and her son Damian also became a dedicated member, joining the Cadet Org in 1980, with work schedules that could last 20 hours a day.
He was six years old.
The year before, he had begun going through Scientology processing, which is done with a contraption called an “e-Meter,” which has sensors made for adult hands.
“My auditor had me drink some really small cans of V8. They were 50 cents,” Perkins remembers. “I’d drink those, we’d take off the label, and those were my cans for the e-Meter. That’s how little my hands were.”
But even as he was working around the clock as a Cadet, dedicated to Scientology’s plans to take over the world, he was increasingly distracted by the church’s setting — Hollywood.
Trish had been trained as an opera singer as well as a dancer, and Damian had been raised around performing his whole childhood.
“I want to sing, act, and dance,” he would tell his mother, which pleased her.
By the time he was seven, Perkins had joined a dance group of young Scientologists. “It was several friends. We would do shows on the small stage there at Lebanon Hall. This is what I’m meant to do, I thought.”
Trish, meanwhile, married twice more, and her third husband said he wanted to adopt Damian and give him his last name, which was Perkins.
To this day, Damian uses the last name Perkins, but he only recently learned that the adoption never actually happened, and legally he’s still Damian Neptune.
By the time he was 19, Damian says, he was leading Kids on Stage for a Better World, and was one of its lead performers, appearing in its videos and leading the other kids through their steps.
But then there was a complication: His girlfriend at the time became pregnant.
His mother was excited about becoming a grandmother, he insists, but for Scientology it was a problem. A Sea Org official told him he was being excluded from Kids on Stage for a Better World, and he couldn't come back unless his girlfriend got an abortion.
By that time, 1994, his mother had pulled back from Scientology to a certain extent, and she was outraged that her 19-year-old son was faced with this choice. (Scientology denies it, but many former Sea Org women have testified that they were forced into abortions so they could continue working around the clock. The church’s former spokesman, Tommy Davis, admitted to the Tampa Bay Times in 2010 that the Sea Org had a “no children” policy.)
Perkins says his mother was upset about the situation on the night of May 17, 1994, when she went for a drive. He thinks she might have been distracted as her car was hit by another driver, sending her car into a spin that ended her life.
Two months later, on July 30, 1994, Perkins’ first child, his daughter Autumn, was born. He had two more children, by different women, a son (Tyler) in 1997 and another daughter (Lelu) in 2008.
In the meantime, he made good on his prediction to his mother that he would become a triple threat on stage.
As an actor, singer, and dancer, Perkins landed increasingly important regional roles, getting one of the leads in a Toronto production of Rent in 1998. And he worked directly with Elton John on Aida the next year in Chicago as the budding production prepared to go to Broadway.
Perkins was doing national commercials, starring in pilots for television series, and was directing stage productions. He was a fixture at the Celebrity Centre, where he taught acting and dancing, and was also involved with Scientology front groups like the Way to Happiness Foundation and Citizens Commission on Human Rights.
By 2003, he was a well known member of a Celebrity Centre social scene that not only included the Masterson family and the Ribisi clan (Gay Ribisi, Giovanni's mother, was Perkins’ manager), but also Lisa Marie Presley and one of her best friends, a young woman who was the daughter of wealthy and influential Scientology donors, and who would years later become known as Jane Doe 1.
What happened the night of April 24-25, 2003 at Masterson’s Hollywood Hills home was the subject of Jane Doe 1’s testimony, which described the actor brutally raping her when she became suspiciously intoxicated after sipping from a single red fruity drink he gave her.
Damian Perkins was also prepared to testify about what he saw that night at Masterson’s house. He submitted a witness statement to the prosecution that described what he would have testified to if he had been called.
We are reproducing most of that statement here.
I had gone out earlier in the evening to a nightclub and ended up around 1:30 a.m. at my former friend Danny Masterson’s house for an after-party. As I recall Danny Masterson was DJing at his house as he had on other nights I had been there. We were having a good time as the night progressed. The party had many Scientologists in attendance. (As a side note, I have not been a Scientologist for the past six-plus years. And in fact have been the subject of several vicious and slanderous attacks by Scientologists in an attempt to silence me and ruin my life for speaking out against them.)
At some point my friend [Jane Doe 1] showed up and we said hi briefly to each other. [Jane Doe 1] and I were very close friends. The beginning of what happened was at the pool: Danny yelled at [Jane Doe 1] and everyone “[Jane Doe 1’s] going in the pool!” He then pushed her into his jacuzzi. [Jane Doe 1] had only had one drink and although I did not see Danny make it, she clearly remembers that he made her a drink in a red cup and she drank part of it before he shoved her into the jacuzzi. This happened in the backyard.
She got out of the pool and I went over as well to make sure she was cool. There were about 10 to 15 people out back, if I recall correctly. She was a little quiet and irritated. I was irritated toward Danny that he had done that to her. I asked to get a towel but rather quickly Danny had brought her one and wrapped it around her (Luke Watson and Danny sort of got in between her and me physically to take over). Danny said he was going to take her upstairs and help her dry off, and myself and a couple others were like “whoa.” We were just teasing him as never in a million years would we have thought that he would do anything to her. Danny said “No! it’s not like that, I would never do anything, she’s my homie.”
Danny picked her up and began to bring her upstairs. I remember she was resisting but she just seemed a bit drunk and out of it at that point. Again, I was just thinking that Danny was going to dry her off and get her some fresh clothes. I didn’t think anything more about it as I knew she was in good hands and I continued hanging out with people at the party.
At some point about an hour or an hour and a half later, I recall seeing [Jane Doe 1], who came up to me (I remember being in the living room, I think I was talking to Jimmy Debello). She said, “Oh my God, Danny just raped me.”
Her hair was still a bit wet and she had bare feet. I remember feeling shocked and then Luke Watson saying, “No, that’s not what happened!”
I was very concerned as she was loopy. I asked what was wrong with her. Luke and someone else said “We think someone ‘roofied’ her at the club.” I remember trying to help her as well as get her some water in the kitchen, and she was sort of stumbling around and Luke and Danny wanted to get her back upstairs. I thought to myself “That makes sense why she’s acting so weird.” They didn’t want me to interfere though, and I remember thinking that they would get her back upstairs and she would sleep it off and be better. Again, the thought never entered my mind that Danny would have or could have raped her right there at the party, especially with people downstairs. And especially not to [Jane Doe 1].
This all happened very fast, but Danny had her by the waist and was dragging her back upstairs. She was screaming and yelling at him “Get the fuck off me! Get the fuck off me!” and cursing at him. I remember myself and others kind of yelling up toward her, “[Jane Doe 1], it’s OK. Calm down, he’s going to take care of you,” and other things. And in my mind I remember thinking how messed up it was that somebody would have drugged her at the club.
As best I can recall after that she quieted down and I didn’t hear anything from her. I stayed and hung out for another 45 minutes or so and was again in the living room with Jimmy when I heard somebody wanting to get in the gate into the house. (It was Brie Shaffer [Masterson’s assistant], apparently.) Danny came downstairs. I remember he had his shirt off and he and Luke yell-whispered at us: “Don’t let her in! Don’t fucking let her in!”
I literally laughed as I didn’t understand why they were being so dramatic. I remember then leaving the drama in the living room to go to the backyard and smoke again. After a short while I recall being asked to leave. There were literally only three or four of us at this point. I remember Brie escorting me, walking down the front steps and leaving. I remember still being concerned about [Jane Doe 1]. Not that she had been raped! Again that was not a thought in my mind. But that she had been drugged. I knew that she was OK though and was sleeping it off. I assumed Luke and Danny were caring for her.
The next day I tried to call her several times and her phone was off. I believe the day after that I was called in to the Celebrity Centre and told by the Ethics Officer in no uncertain terms that Danny had not done anything to [Jane Doe 1] and that she had simply drunk too much and somebody roofied her drink. That was 100 percent acceptable to me at the time. I was a hardcore Scientologist and what they say you believed and followed unconditionally. And they told me that she was doing ethics handlings to help her.
Perkins tells us that, consistent with his witness report, he was called by an ethics officer at the Celebrity Centre two days after the incident.
“It was a Sea Org member, who said, ‘We need you to come in to CC.’ For what? ‘An R-factor’ [or reality factor]. You don't question that. An hour or two later, I drove down from Woodland Hills.”
He says that he went into a special section of the Celebrity Centre that was downstairs. He was greeted by ethics officer Miranda Scoggins, who was sitting. Standing behind her was her husband, Chris Scoggins.
“You were at the party,” he remembers Miranda saying to him. When he agreed, she said, “We wanted you to know that [Jane Doe 1] drank too much. She was out-ethics. And we think someone might have drugged her at a club. And we wanted you to know she’s getting an ethics handling.”
“I hadn't asked for any of this information,” Perkins says. And then he asked them, “What about Danny?”
Masterson didn't do anything wrong, she responded.
“And that was it. There was no ethics program for Danny. I stood up and left the Celebrity Centre at that point,” he says.
It was nearly a year later, he remembers, that he ran into Jane Doe 1 again, at a nightclub called Joseph’s, and they were joined by their friend, the actress Lynsey Bartilson, another Scientologist.
Perkins says that they danced and drank, and then at some point he pulled Jane Doe 1 aside and asked her to go to a patio area to talk.
“I have to ask you,” he remembers saying, “did anything happen at that party last year?”
But she repeated what Perkins had heard from the Celebrity Centre figures, that she had been drugged by “someone,” and that she did an ethics handling about it.
“She blew me off,” Perkins says.
And then, over time, he lost track of her entirely. “She wasn't on social media. And I didn't know how to reach her,” he says.
At some point around 2013, he remembers, he had reached out to a friend named Angel, asking him if he knew where Jane Doe 1 was. Angel told him he'd look into it.
Then, in 2015, after his conversation with Jane Doe 3 about the bizarre car accident with her nanny, Perkins finally heard from Jane Doe 1 again, 11 years after that night dancing at Joseph’s.
“A little angel told me you were trying to contact me,” she quipped as they got back in touch with a telephone call.
After a while, their conversation turned to that night in 2003, when they had both been at Danny Masterson’s house.
“I said to her, you know that party? I remember Danny throwing you in the jacuzzi. I had never seen you drunk before. Afterwards I was brought into CC. They told me nothing happened,” he tells us.
“I remember I was very pissed at Danny that night. And I remember seeing her outside the jacuzzi after he threw her in, pulled up into a fetal position. That’s when Danny and Luke took control.”
This time, he told her that he remembered her coming up to him that night and saying, “Oh my God, Danny just raped me.” But she didn't appear to remember it.
“She was quiet. Then I heard her start sobbing on the phone, weeping. She said no, Damian, it was much worse than that. And then she told me the story that she said in court, and it was exactly the same story she told in court.”
He says they were crying as she told him the details of the attack. The conversation lasted for nearly an hour, he remembers.
“At the end of the conversation, I told her that another of my friends had similar things happen to her. I asked her, do you know [Jane Doe 3]?”
Jane Doe 1 said she had met Jane Doe 3 a few times but didn't really know her.
“So then I put them together,” Perkins says.
Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 3 soon learned about another woman, Jane Doe 2, who also had been raped by Masterson. The three of them decided to go to the LAPD.
And then, early in 2017. Perkins heard about what a disaster the investigation was becoming.
“And that's when I called you,” Perkins says.
Damian Perkins and I had already been talking for a couple of years when, early in 2017, he reached out to me and said he wanted to let me in on something.
It was Perkins who first told me about the LAPD investigation of Danny Masterson, and that the women victims were angry at how it was being mishandled.
On March 3, 2017, I broke that initial story at the Underground Bunker, which included quotes from a letter written by Jane Doe 3 to LAPD police chief Charlie Beck, complaining about police incompetence.
Because these brave women stood up to the police, they got a new detective who soon turned the investigation around.
But they would still face years of delay from law enforcement, and harassment that they believe is coming from Scientology.
We’ve been fortunate to cover it all, for the past six years.
And it was Damian Perkins who gave us that chance, something he agreed it was time we revealed to the public.
Perkins left Scientology in 2010, and in the years that came after that he experienced strange incidents of harassment and intimidation. A Scientologist roommate, for example, filed a restraining order against him and tried to get him evicted. And later a landlord literally pointed a gun at him and had her boyfriend bind his wrists with zip ties while making false accusations about Perkins abusing his daughter. (That couple was prosecuted, spent time in custody, and were paying Perkins restitution for years.)
Each of these incidents, Perkins believed, was tied to the Church of Scientology and its Office of Special Affairs, the church wing that not only oversees Scientology’s public relations, but also hires private investigators and oversees its investigations and retaliation schemes against former Scientologists and journalists. OSA is Scientology’s spy wing and secret police, and Perkins believed he was being targeted not only because he had left the organization, but also because of what he knew took place at Danny Masterson’s house in 2003.
After Perkins put Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 3 together in 2016, that harassment continued, with cars parked outside his house, with strangers filming Perkins and his daughter in the neighborhood, and with odd things happening to his electronics.
But the most important thing that he experienced, and that came close to being a part of the first Masterson trial, were the phone calls that Perkins had with a man named Erick Geisler.
They had been friends since childhood, and Perkins had been working closely with Geisler, a special effects producer, on several different film projects at the time.
Perkins tells us that he had no idea that in 2011, at the Village Voice, we had reported that Geisler was outed as a Scientology spy by Marc Headley.
In 2015, Perkins got a phone call from Geisler, who said that the Office of Special Affairs had told him to cut ties with Damian, who was no longer in good standing with the church. But Geisler told him he was sticking by him since they were such good, longtime friends.
Then, in 2018, and as the LA District Attorney's office was considering whether to charge Danny Masterson based on the LAPD investigation, and Perkins assumed he was going to be an important witness if there was a trial, he heard again from Geisler.
According to a description of the call Perkins gave to the LAPD at the time, Geisler said that someone at OSA had told him to ask Damian “where he stood in regards to Danny Masterson and the Church of Scientology.”
Perkins says he immediately realized what was going on: It was an intimidation attempt because he was planning to testify. Do you know what you’re asking? he says he asked Geisler.
“Yes man, I know. But I don't want to get involved in any of this either,” Geisler said, according to what Perkins reported to the LAPD. “You know that if you testify or talk to the press that’s really going to piss them off. Otherwise, they won't fuck with you.”
Geisler claimed that he sympathized with Perkins’ position, and said he thought Scientology should distance itself from Masterson now that the actor had been fired from the Netflix series The Ranch in December 2017. “Justice has already been served,” Geisler said.
He claimed he would tell OSA to back off, that Perkins was a born-again Christian now and had no issues with Masterson or Scientology.
Geisler told him that as long as Perkins kept quiet everything was fine, but otherwise, OSA would “release the Kraken.”
While Geisler was making it sound like he was on his side, Perkins says the implication was clear: Geisler was delivering the message that if Perkins didn’t keep his mouth shut, OSA would release a frightening dose of retaliation on him.
After Perkins reported this phone call to the LAPD in an email on May 3, 2018, he was asked if he would be willing to record Geisler and get him to say the same things on tape.
Perkins said that he was willing, and he soon got Geisler back on the phone.
On the recording he made, Perkins asked Geisler what he meant about OSA “releasing the Kraken.”
“What am I looking at here?” he asks Geisler.
“I wouldn’t really worry about it, because it's not going to come back to you,” Geisler says on the recording.
“If it ends up going to trial, what are they going to do to silence me?”
Geisler, who was at an airport, sounds muffled, but it’s clear on the recording that he refers to intimidation.
Perkins then asks him to reveal who at OSA had asked Geisler to deliver this message. “We’ve been lifelong friends,” Perkins says. “Who was it?”
Geisler then said three names that Perkins didn’t recognize. (And the names are not clear enough on the recording for us to repeat them. We don’t want to get them wrong.)
Geisler then says it doesn’t matter who talked to him, and Perkins responds, “It does to me.”
Perkins says it mattered to him who at OSA was talking about releasing the Kraken against him.
But Geisler then says that “they want to know where you stood,” and that the part about releasing the Kraken was Geisler's own interpretation of it.
It’s a poor quality recording, but the implication is clear: Geisler acknowledged that he was delivering a message to Perkins on behalf of figures at Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs (which he named), and that Perkins could expect intimidation from Scientology, at the least, if he planned to testify on behalf of Danny Masterson’s victims.
Two years after that phone call, in June 2020, the LA District Attorney’s office announced that it was charging Masterson with three counts of forcible rape.
As the initial trial approached last October, the DA’s witness list contained the names of both Damian Perkins and Erick Geisler.
In fact, we spotted Geisler in the hallway on the second day of jury selection of the first trial, on October 12, and he was speaking with Deputy DA Reinhold Mueller.
We called Geisler yesterday, and he said that he didn’t want to make a statement without first consulting an attorney. But Perkins confirms what we had suspected when we spotted Geisler at the courthouse: Caught on tape, Geisler had little choice but to agree to testify to what he had told Perkins, that the Church of Scientology was prepared to intimidate Perkins if he planned to testify against Masterson.
We know that the DA’s office also planned to call Lisa Marie Presley for similar testimony, that she had been asked by Scientology to try and talk Jane Doe 1 out of going to the LAPD in 2004.
In other words, the DA’s office had plans to include significant testimony about Scientology being directly involved with witness intimidation in the Masterson case. But Judge Charlaine Olmedo ruled that Presley’s testimony would not be relevant to Masterson’s guilt or innocence, and the prosecutors never called Presley or Perkins or Geisler to testify in the first trial, which ended in a hung jury on November 30.
For the retrial in April, Judge Olmedo ruled that she would allow more testimony about Scientology and allegations by the three victims that they had each experienced the church’s habit of punishing victims, of protecting celebrities like Masterson, and of barring Scientologists from turning in fellow members to law enforcement, something that is enshrined in the written policies of the organization. On May 31, the retrial jury returned with guilty verdicts on counts one and two (for allegations by Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2), and were split 8 to 4 for conviction on count three, for Jane Doe 3.
Judge Olmedo had allowed some testimony not only on Scientology’s policies, but also on the harassment that the victims are alleging in their civil lawsuit. But the DA’s office still didn’t put on what it knew about Scientology’s attempts at witness intimidation.
Lisa Marie Presley had died in January, before the April 17 start of the second trial, and Damian Perkins and Erick Geisler were both left off of the DA’s witness list for the retrial.
Perkins says he isn’t sure why. He was still prepared to testify to what he had seen that night in 2003 at Danny Masterson’s house. He's still ready to cooperate in the civil lawsuit filed by Masterson’s victims, if they need him.
And Geisler’s testimony might be a crucial element in that lawsuit, showing direct evidence of Scientology’s attempt to keep Masterson’s victims from getting justice.
Perkins gets emotional talking about the years of harassment he’s endured, the years of waiting to see whether he was going to testify or not, and the rush of relief he felt when he heard the news that Masterson had been convicted.
“It’s been really hard because of the fact that Scientology has gotten away with this for so many years, and there comes a point that you just don’t care anymore about what they can do to you,” he says through tears. “Scientology, you tried to take my family. You tried to take my children. You threatened me with violence, so what else is there?”
We asked him how he had felt when he heard about the verdicts.
“Very relieved. Look, I’m not celebrating because someone is going to jail. I’m celebrating because finally, after all that they’ve done to my family and my friends, these women, finally there’s justice,” he says.
“Scientology got completely decimated in return for what they have done to so many of us.”
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