Legal Expert Says Danny Masterson May Not Serve His Entire 30-Year Sentence

Today, Danny Masterson was sentenced to 30 years in prison following a rape conviction earlier this year. It was his second rape trial; the first trial resulted in a hung jury in November 2022.

In May, a second jury convicted Masterson of two of the original three charges in which he was accused of drugging and forcibly raping women at his Hollywood Hills home more than 20 years ago.

He was convicted of raping two women in 2003 while starring on That 70’s Show. The second jury could not reach a verdict on a third allegation from 2001 made by a former girlfriend, though jurors voted in favor of conviction.

Judge Charlaine Olmedo sentenced Masterson to 15 years to life on each of the two charges, ordering him to serve both terms consecutively. Initially, it was believed that Masterson could face a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison if found guilty. Did his celebrity work in his favor, or was justice served?

“Danny Masterson did not receive special treatment as a celebrity,” said criminal defense attorney Joshua Ritter, a partner with El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers and a former Los Angeles County prosecutor. Ritter added that 30 years is what he’d expect for anyone accused of such serious crimes. “I don’t think his celebrity played any role in the judge’s decision.”

Ritter believes Judge Olmedo, who presided over both trials, was not swayed by Masterson’s celebrity status or powerful connections with Scientology. “The sentence shows that the judge was unwilling to entertain any pleas for leniency by the defense. This sentence is essentially the maximum he could’ve received. She was in no way persuaded by any defense argument to give anything less than the maximum allowed.”

However, Ritter adds that Masterson may not serve the entire 30-year sentence. “Because this is considered a strike offense, he will likely have to do 85% of that time, about 25 and a half years.”

Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney Tre Lovell thought the court would opt for something at the high end of the sentencing range, given the gravity of the rapes and the statement the court would want to make to show how serious these crimes are.

“Celebrities who wind up in court usually get treated better than the average person. Stars have an undeniable allure. But there’s a catch, and it can hit celebrities like a rip current. When a celebrity is accused and convicted of an egregious crime, their status suddenly works against them. The sentence the judge gives a celebrity for a serious crime will be highly publicized, so a judge may want to use the opportunity to send a message and set an example of the consequences of harming someone. Masterson didn’t benefit from being a celebrity. If anything, it may have hurt him.”

Lovell adds that the 30-year sentence shows that accountability has no expiration date. “Masterson’s case was decades old, and he’s facing significant repercussions. Even Harvey Weinstein didn’t receive as long a sentence in his trials.”

Masterson, who became famous for his roles on the hit Fox sitcom That 70’s Show and the popular Netflix series The Ranch, has maintained his innocence throughout both proceedings.

The Church of Scientology played a significant role in both trials. Masterson has been a lifelong member, and all of the victims were Scientologists when they were assaulted but have since left the church.

Lovell acknowledges that this case put Scientology in a terrible light. “It will cause some people in Hollywood to take a second look at the church. Its followers are pretty steadfast. But with the victims in this trial pursuing a civil case, that could open the door to further civil litigation against the church and lessen its appeal.”

It’s been a long road to justice for Masterson’s victims. Opening statements for the first trial began on Tuesday, October 19, 2022. Full disclosure: I was there seated directly behind him that first day, covering the court proceedings for PEOPLE.

I watched as Masterson sat quietly in the packed Los Angeles courtroom, and a few things stood out that day. He had a lot of support in court. The two rows directly behind him were filled with family and friends, including his two brothers, Malcolm In the Middle star Christopher Masterson and Jordan Masterson. In addition, his mom, Carol, sister, Alanna Masterson (The Walking Dead), wife, Bijou Phillips, and actor and close friend Chris Wadhams were also there for support.

Masterson’s calm demeanor that first day also stood out. He sat with his hands folded in his lap as Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller laid out the allegations against him in graphic detail in a two-hour and 15-minute opening statement. Mueller methodically detailed accusations from three women who alleged Masterson had sex with them without their consent.

As Variety reported, many of Masterson’s original supporters were in court today as he heard his fate, including Phillips, who was seen crying after learning her husband’s fate, and his three siblings were also there.

In addition, former Scientologist Leah Remini was in court for the sentencing. Afterward, Remini tweeted her thoughts and minced no words, saying that Masterson’s conviction and sentence are indictments against Scientology, its operatives, and its “criminal leader,” David Miscavige.

“Sitting in court today with the women who survived Danny Masterson’s predation was a surreal experience,” Remini’s statement read in part. “Over the past seven decades, former Scientologists have sadly become used to Scientology using its financial resources, religious protection, and relationships to snatch justice away from them.”

She pointed out how dangerous it can be for those in Scientology to go against the church and applauded the women for their bravery. “I will always remind the public that in Scientology, if you report another Scientologist to law enforcement, you are committing a high crime. The consequences of such a high crime are devastating: You will lose everything you’ve ever known, from your family to your friends to your job.”

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