June 17, 2020 / 10:19 PM / 20 days ago

U.S. actor Danny Masterson charged with raping three women

FILE PHOTO: Actor Danny Masterson arrives at Warner Bros. Pictures' "Gangster Squad" premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “That 70s Show” actor Danny Masterson has been charged with raping three women in separate incidents in 2001 and 2003, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said on Wednesday.

The District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that it had declined to file sexual assault charges against Masterson in two other cases because of insufficient evidence and because of the statute of limitations.

Masterson, 44, got his break-out role in the 1998-2006 television comedy series “That 70s Show,” in which he played a rebel adolescent. He could not immediately be reached for comment on the charges.

In a statement issued to Variety, Tom Mesereau, Masterson’s attorney, vowed to fight the charges.

“Mr. Masterson is innocent, and we’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify,” Mesereau said in the statement. “The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.”

The three rape charges together carry a maximum prison sentence of 45 years to life in prison if Masterson is convicted, the District Attorney’s office said.

All of the alleged rapes took place at Masterson’s Hollywood Hills home, the statement said. They involve the alleged rape of a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April 2003, and a 23-year old woman between October and December 2003. The charges did not name the women.

Masterson, who has been married to actress Bijou Phillips since 2011, was written out of the Netflix comedy series “The Ranch” in December 2017 when a police investigation on the allegations against him first came to light.

Dozens of actors, politicians, businessmen and musicians have lost their jobs since 2017 when sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein fueled the #MeToo movement. Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault in February and sentenced to 23 years behind bars.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Howard Goller

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