LOS ANGELES — One Hollywood star claimed he was arrested and charged on a number of counts of rape by police and prosecutors who’re biased in opposition to his church.
One other distinguished Hollywood determine charged with rape contends he was arrange by members of a church he has publicly renounced.
In each instances, the church in query is the Church of Scientology.
It doesn’t matter what occurs on the trials of former “That ’70s Present” star Danny Masterson, who’s accused of raping three ladies 20 years in the past, and Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis, accused of raping a publicist a decade in the past, the highlight is on the controversial church that has been embraced by a few of Hollywood’s largest names — and derided as a cult by celeb defectors and others.
“This isn’t going to be a trial on Scientology,” Los Angeles County Superior Court docket Decide Charlaine F. Olmedo warned at a pretrial listening to for Masterson, though she allowed the accusers to quote the church as a purpose they waited to report the alleged rapes.
Scientology was began in 1952 by the science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. The faith asserts in its official statements of beliefs that man is an immortal religious being with limitless capabilities, and it gives, for a value, one-on-one “auditing” and lessons designed to assist members obtain a “clear” religious state. It strongly opposes the science of psychiatry as “disastrous.”
Authorized analysts mentioned Scientology looms giant over each proceedings.
“Whereas it seems as if the choose is working arduous to make sure that this trial will not be about deserves of Scientology, it’s inconceivable for the witnesses to inform their tales regardless of the church,” mentioned Sarah Krissoff, a high New York Metropolis protection legal professional and former federal prosecutor who led investigations into intercourse trafficking and crimes in opposition to kids. “It’s all inextricably intertwined.”
All three of Masterson’s accusers had been Scientologists, and two have testified that they had been rebuffed once they instructed church officers Masterson had raped them and that they had been subjected to stalking and different acts of retaliation after they reported the alleged assaults to police.
“She had instructed me to not use the phrase ‘rape,’” testified an accuser recognized as Jane Doe #3, recounting a dialog she had 20 years in the past with Scientology ethics officer Miranda Scoggins on the church’s Superstar Centre Worldwide in Hollywood.
The accuser mentioned Scoggins instructed her: “I had executed one thing to trigger it. … We’re all answerable for the situation we’re in.”
There was no speedy response from a church spokesperson to the newest testimony. Scientology, whose celeb devotees embrace Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley, has obtained “loads of unhealthy press” about “supposedly punishing and investigating those that go away the church,” mentioned NBC Information authorized analyst Danny Cevallos.
Priya Chaudhry, the legal professional for Haggis, a two-time Oscar winner, mentioned in her opening assertion because the civil trial acquired underway in Manhattan that Haggis had predicted in a 2011 interview in The New Yorker that church leaders would attempt to “discover filth” on him for having parted with Scientology in 2009 over its opposition to homosexual marriage.
“Scientology may be very profitable at destroying its enemies with out leaving a single fingerprint behind,” Chaudhry instructed the courtroom.
Which implies Haggis should give you some fingerprints, authorized analysts mentioned.
“The success of this technique actually will depend on what proof Haggis has to assist this argument,” Krissoff mentioned. “He should display a really shut hyperlink between his animosity with the church and the allegations in opposition to him. If he fails to take action, this technique is likely to be a distraction however not essentially a protection to legal responsibility.”
Each trials started this month, 5 years after a number of rape allegations in opposition to the film mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017 sparked a tsunami of sexual misconduct claims in Hollywood and helped gasoline the #MeToo motion.
Weinstein was convicted of rape in 2020 and sentenced to 23 years in jail earlier than he was extradited from New York to Los Angeles. New York state’s highest courtroom agreed in August to permit him to enchantment the conviction. He’s now on trial accused of attacking 5 ladies from 2004 to 2013 — in a courtroom down the corridor from the place Masterson’s trial is being held in Los Angeles County Superior Court docket. He has pleaded not responsible.
The Manhattan courthouse the place Haggis is on trial is adjoining to the one the place a jury concluded this month that the Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey didn’t molest the actor Anthony Rapp, who mentioned he was 14 when Spacey assaulted him.
Haggis, who received screenwriting Oscars for “Million Greenback Child” and “Crash,” is accused of raping the publicist Haleigh Breest in 2013, when she was 26. He claims the intercourse was consensual.
Breest claimed in a lawsuit in opposition to Haggis in 2017 that he lured her to his condo and compelled her to carry out oral intercourse. Her transfer prompted three different ladies to come back ahead with their very own rape allegations in opposition to Haggis.
Haggis denied Breest’s rape allegation in a counter-complaint and accused her and her lawyer of attempting to extort $9 million from him.
“You a lot by no means know if [Breest] is mendacity due to Scientology, to get his cash or another purpose,” Chaudhry instructed jurors. “However the proof will present she’s mendacity.”
Breest’s lawyer, Zoe Salzman, insisted Breest has “nothing to do with Scientology.”
“Scientology has nothing to do with this case,” mentioned Salzman, who mentioned Breest got here ahead after Haggis condemned Weinstein for preying on feminine actors. “She determined she needed to do one thing.”
Within the Masterson case, he and his accusers are all present or former members of the Church of Scientology. One is his former longtime girlfriend.
He’s charged with raping the ladies at his house from 2001 to 2003.
Masterson’s first lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, insisted police and prosecutors had been going after him as a result of he’s a Scientologist. He additionally tried and did not subpoena all communications between Masterson’s accusers and the actor Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who has turn into an outspoken critic of the faith.
Masterson’s new legal professional, Phillip Cohen, has taken a special tack, stating repeatedly that the case in opposition to Masterson has nothing to do with Scientology, though a witness listing is stuffed with present and former members, together with well-known figures like Lisa Marie Presley, who’s a pal of one of many accusers.
As an alternative, Cohen has signaled his intention to embark on a extra conventional protection of his celeb shopper.
“I do assume it’s prudent for Masterson’s protection counsel to focus the jury on the credibility of the accusers,” Krissoff mentioned. “His job is to lift doubt in regards to the accusers’ accounts. Nonetheless, he must tread calmly in doing so, as juries are sometimes repelled by overt assaults on accusers.”
Masterson’s protection also can chorus from any point out of Scientology and nonetheless win, Cevallos mentioned.
“In a intercourse assault case, doing nothing and claiming the federal government has did not show its case may be efficient, as a result of the assault is commonly a ‘he-said, she-said’ case,” Cevallos mentioned.