Masterson, 44, who has been released on bail since his arrest in June, appeared in court in a blue suit and face mask next to lawyers Tom Mesereau and Sharon Appelbaum, as the three women sat in the gallery .
Masterson did not plead, but Mesereau said the charges, based on events nearly 20 years old, were the result of unfair media hype and pressure to prosecute his client as the Los Angeles County Attorney Jackie Lacey faces an election.
“There have been repeated attempts to politicize this matter,” said Mesereau, who has also represented Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson in their cases of sexual misconduct. “He is absolutely not guilty and we will prove it. ”
Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller called the statements “pure speculation with no factual basis.”
Mesereau spoke as the judge considered media requests to allow media cameras in court, which he approved.
Mesereau argued that the media presence would be unfairly prejudicial to Masterson and taint potential jurors.
“We want to do everything we can to tone down the cameras and the circus atmosphere that have permeated this case,” the lawyer said. “We’re just trying to protect his rights. ”
Superior Court Judge Miguel T. Espinoza also dismissed a defense request for a protective order sealing cases and preventing police, prosecutors and potential witnesses from revealing information about the case to the media, but has said he would reconsider a similar request later.
The defense filed documents asking that the criminal complaint against Masterson be dismissed as insufficient. A hearing on the matter will take place before Masterson is invited to plead.
Masterson’s arrest came after a three-year investigation that resulted in rare lawsuits against a famous Hollywood figure during the .MeToo era. Despite dozens of investigations, most have not resulted in any charges due to lack of evidence or the passage of time.
About 20 friends and supporters accompanied Masterson to court, standing in the courthouse lobby with him awaiting the hearing, but only a few were allowed into the courtroom due to the demands away from the coronavirus.
He only spoke to answer “yes” to the judge’s questions.
Masterson is charged with three counts of rape by force or fear. Prosecutors allege he raped a 23-year-old woman in 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 and a 23-year-old woman between October and December 2003. Prosecutors have declared all of the alleged attacks. arrived home.
He could face up to 45 years in prison if found guilty.
Neither Masterson and his lawyers, nor the three women spoke to reporters outside the court.
The women, who are not named in the prosecution documents, said in a statement through their attorneys when Masterson was arrested having suffered “harassment, embarrassment and revictimization” since they have started to cooperate with authorities and are “grateful that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is finally seeking criminal justice.” ”
The alleged rapes came at the height of Masterson’s fame as he played Steven Hyde on the retro ensemble sitcom “That ’70s Show” alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace. The series aired on Fox TV from 1998 to 2006 and had a long afterlife in reruns.
It was removed from the Netflix show “The Ranch” in 2017 because of the allegations that would eventually lead to the charges.