The Danny Masterson Case and What It Means for Scientology – Variety

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“That ’70s Present” star Danny Masterson was booked on three counts of rape on Wednesday, the end result of an investigation that lasted greater than three years.

Nobody has coated the story extra intently than Tony Ortega, the previous editor of the Village Voice who has been writing about Scientology since 1995. Since 2012, Ortega has been posting in regards to the church on his weblog The Underground Bunker.

In an interview with Variety on Thursday morning, Ortega talked about how the case unfolded, the position of Scientology, and what a trial would imply for the church. Masterson has denied the allegations, and the church issued a response which is posted under.

You broke this story within the first place.

March 3, 2017. I broke the story that these preliminary three ladies have been speaking to the LAPD. They’d really come ahead the earlier fall. It had been occurring for some time earlier than I discovered about it, and the incidents themselves are between 2001 and 2003. I name them Sufferer A, Sufferer B and Sufferer C. Sufferer A is Chrissie Carnell. Sufferer B, whose incident was April 2003, she did go to the LAPD towards the desires of the Church of Scientology in 2004. (Ed. be aware: This declare is lodged in a lawsuit filed final 12 months.) Yashar Ali on the Huffington Put up did an ideal story about how Scientology simply swarmed that investigation and satisfied LAPD to drop it. A part of the rationale why, Sufferer B was informed, was as a result of they didn’t find out about every other victims. That’s as a result of Chrissie and Sufferer B didn’t know one another again then or didn’t know they have been each victims at the moment. It wasn’t till a few years later when Chrissie, in 2016 — and the #MeToo motion was beginning up — that she began listening to from different people who she wasn’t the one one that had allegations towards Danny Masterson. And it’s when she realized that and lastly obtained to fulfill each Sufferer B and Sufferer C, that they then determined, “We have now to do one thing.” And that’s once they approached the LAPD. And when the LAPD reopened Sufferer B’s case from 2004, all of the studies have been lacking. I imply, it’s only a weird set of circumstances.

They will need to have needed to overcome a worry of Scientology being highly effective sufficient to get an investigation killed, and a reluctance to return ahead based mostly on that, in an effort to try this.

The first downside that they had was that a few of them had moved out of the realm. So like Chrissie for instance, she was in Texas on the time, and had contacted her native police in Texas. They’d then been put in contact with the LAPD, and the LAPD mentioned to her, “We’ll deal with it downtown. Don’t go to the Hollywood Division” the place the incident occurred. The LAPD itself was telling her, “It’s a must to come downtown for this to be handled severely.” Even then, initially the LAPD was actually dealing with it badly, and in my first story in March 2017, I used to be really capable of quote from a letter that Chrissie had written to Chief (Charlie) Beck, who was the chief on the time, complaining in regards to the preliminary detective not dealing with the case very nicely. They changed her with Det. Vargas. He has actually performed I believe an outstanding job since then and labored very arduous to place all this collectively. It was a really complicated case. The incontrovertible fact that it lasted so lengthy, I don’t assume we all know but why it took so lengthy, however I do know a part of it’s, it’s a very complicated case with a whole lot of completely different individuals they needed to speak to.

On the D.A. facet of issues, have been you stunned yesterday when the costs have been filed?

I do know it’s been torture for these ladies, as a result of they’d hear each few months, “OK, we’re gonna deliver it to (District Lawyer) Jackie Lacey and she’s going to decide this month. It’s gonna occur. It’s gonna occur.” After which it might at all times get pushed again. No, it was not a shock to me as a result of I had been listening to not too long ago they have been going to have these conferences and they have been going to decide, and they felt that it was going to occur. However once more, it obtained moved again due to COVID. It obtained moved again due to the protests. And so the timing was a shock. I didn’t understand that this was going to occur yesterday. However I can let you know that for a while we have been listening to that there was going to be a choice of some kind quickly.

Have been you involved all through they have been dragging their ft or they weren’t taking it severely?

It was actually arduous to know what was occurring. It was very clear that the managers within the workplace under Jackie Lacey have been all for not solely charging Masterson, however charging him with probably the most extreme penalties. I reported in February 2018, greater than two years in the past, that the managers within the workplace had signed off on charging him below this California one-strike regulation that will carry a 25-to-life sentence. No one else picked up that story. I believe most individuals thought “Ortega should be exaggerating” or one thing. Now Jackie Lacey comes out and says she’s going for 45-to-life — even stronger than I had heard. It’s arduous to know for certain. I had at all times been listening to for the final two years that the workplace itself was very strongly behind the thought of charging Masterson and charging him with very severe allegations and severe penalties, and it was only a matter of “When is Jackie Lacey going to decide?” That was simply at all times a thriller. Now individuals will deliver up the truth that she’s been below a whole lot of protest recently. Did which have one thing to do with it? I don’t know. Like I mentioned, the individuals who work for her have been working in the direction of today for a very long time.

When Lee Baca was sheriff there was a relationship there with the Church of Scientology and his affection for their rehabilitation packages. Do you assume this is a sign that they don’t have that sort of sway or clout anymore?

I believe Scientology’s affect typically has been waning, notably in Hollywood. Hollywood was petrified of Scientology, and extra not too long ago it looks like each different present has put some sort of a Scientology joke of their scripts in the previous couple of years. Partly it’s to say “You’re not the massive scary bully anymore.” Nonetheless I believe there’s nonetheless loads of worry in Los Angeles when it comes to Scientology. However they’ve misplaced affect I believe.

When it comes to trying ahead to a trial, is to some extent the church going to be a part of it or on trial ultimately? Or does it characterize a second the place individuals must get up and take note of them greater than they’ve been?

That’s the topic of my story this morning, and I talked to (distinguished ex-Scientologist) Mike Rinder about this yesterday and he had a extremely sensible response about that. Scientology is de facto intertwined with Masterson on this case. There have been some information organizations that reported the story yesterday and in some way managed to not use the phrase “Scientology.” I’m sort of amazed at that. As a result of not solely is Danny Masterson a lifelong Scientologist — not solely is he a trustworthy soldier for Scientology, and would present up at occasions and make sturdy statements within the press about Scientology — however all three of his victims, those that the costs are stemming from, have been Scientologists on the time. And no less than two out of the three I do know of went to the church, who discouraged them from going to the authorities.

So Scientology could be very a lot concerned on this story. My query for Rinder, was I’ve seen some issues on-line, individuals have been speculating that if Masterson was charged, Scientology would distance itself. However as Mike says, they’re so concerned, it is going to be troublesome for them simply to drop him. As a result of he thinks Danny might trigger them a whole lot of hassle. And I believe he’s proper. I believe there are people who have been serving to him stop this from being prosecuted earlier. That’s what I’m trying ahead to discovering out — is simply how a lot of a legal responsibility Scientology has in all this, and how a lot that can be a part of this case.

Now so far as the speedy authorized issues are involved, no, he’s not being defended by a Scientology legal professional. He’s being defended by Tom Mesereau, who he employed as his protection legal professional. His different longtime legal professional is Marty Singer, an leisure legal professional. It’s not like Scientology is actively — in reality, they’re each being sued. That’s one other factor that’s fascinating about this. These ladies have been bored with ready for Jackie Lacey to do one thing, in order that they filed a lawsuit towards Scientology, (church chief David) Miscavige and Masterson. In that case, in the event you take a look at the filings, Scientology is responding with their attorneys to the components that apply to them. Masterson is responding to the issues that pertain to him. So individuals have requested me, “Why is Scientology defending Danny on this go well with?” and I’ve to level out to them, technically they aren’t. Scientology’s attorneys are representing Scientology within the lawsuit. Masterson’s attorneys are representing Masterson within the go well with. They’ve been holding issues pretty separate at that degree.

You assume they’ll extra doubtless lay low than overtly lower him free?

Proper, I believe they’ll be very cautious about it. They’ll in all probability put out some basic, impartial statements, about “Let justice take its course,” that sort of factor. However it might be arduous for them to desert him at this level.

The place does this match into the historical past of Scientology and the courts?

Wow, that’s an enormous query. That is positively one of many largest authorized milestones in Scientology historical past, there’s no query. So far as legal circumstances, the most important legal case that Scientology has needed to face was the Snow White prosecution in 1979, that ended up involving 11 prime Scientologists who have been convicted and went to jail. Since then there have been a few different Scientologists that have been very notably prosecuted criminally. One was Rex Fowler, who was a Scientologist who killed his enterprise companion and went to jail for it. Then there was Reed Slatkin, who was one of many largest Ponzi schemers till Bernie Madoff got here alongside and made everybody appear to be pikers…

This one is simply type of arduous to gauge, as a result of I’m undecided the place it’s going. It’s a mixture of actually terrible allegations. You mix that with celeb. I do know Danny Masterson shouldn’t be the most important celeb on the earth, however a whole lot of younger individuals actually keep in mind him from “That ’70s Present.” You mix that with Scientology’s repute for bullying and authorized chicanery, and boy, what a combination. I believe individuals are going to be actually concerned about how this seems.

For you personally, clearly you’ve made this a life’s work. How does it really feel to return so far, and what do you’re feeling like we nonetheless don’t find out about Scientology that we have to know?

Whether or not it was a sensible thought or not, I made a decision to present myself the job of beat reporter on Scientology some years in the past. I get pleasure from it as a result of the rationale anybody enjoys being a beat reporter — you get a entrance row seat and you don’t understand how issues are going to prove. That is the sort of story I’m fascinated by, and I really feel for these ladies which were by way of a lot over latest years. They are saying they’ve been harassed and they’ve been intimidated. And so they simply need their day in courtroom. So I’m pleased for them that they’re getting a prosecution. However y’know, Danny deserves his day in courtroom too. Danny deserves to deliver witnesses. And I believe as a beat reporter, I’m simply fascinated to seek out out what occurs. From my perspective, I hope it motivates extra individuals to study Scientology and its authorized historical past, and a number of the issues they’ve put individuals by way of who simply dared to speak about what they actually do behind closed doorways, and the bullying they do. I believe it will curiosity extra individuals in that.

Karin Pouw, spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, responds:

As I suggested you yesterday in response to your preliminary inquiry, the Church doesn’t imagine it’s acceptable to touch upon a pending legal matter. Likewise, it’s not acceptable for you to ask the Church to defend towards a legal grievance by which there is no such thing as a point out of Scientology. The identical people bringing the legal grievance, nevertheless, have filed a civil lawsuit towards the Church, and I can and will touch upon the scandalous allegations raised in that sham civil grievance. We all know these allegations are false, flat-out unfaithful, that the Church can be vindicated, and that the plaintiffs can be proven to don’t have any credibility when they’re required to supply proof to assist their claims in courtroom.

That mentioned, it’s outrageous that you just ask me to remark in your “interview” with an anti-Scientology blogger. Tony Ortega was by no means a Scientologist; he isn’t an ex-Scientologist; he has by no means had any first-hand contact with the Church; he actually shouldn’t be a journalist nor a “beat” reporter as you declare. He’s a blogger, paid to keep up his weblog by one other infamous anti-Scientologist, Karen de la Carriere, and Ortega’s supply, Mike Rinder, is a paid guide on this very civil litigation. Thus, your “interview” is little greater than a crew of anti-Scientologists selling one another. Tony Ortega has no unbiased information relating to the plaintiffs’ claims, makes no unique assertion and merely regurgitates the allegations within the grievance.

How can something Tony Ortega has to say be pertinent to this civil litigation? Absolutely you’re conscious that Tony Ortega was dismissed in shame by the Village Voice eight years in the past and is unemployable due to his historical past of false tales. You should additionally remember that Ortega championed backpage.com, the most important on-line intercourse trafficking website on the earth, earlier than its seizure by the FBI in 2018. Backpage.com is infamous for its intercourse trafficking of minors; two of its principals are dealing with legal expenses. Your supply for the allegations of sexual assault and cover-up is a promoter of intercourse trafficking of minors? How unprofessional is that?

Variety’s malice and bigotry is on show in your use of Tony Ortega as a supply. How despicable for you to interview an anti-Scientologist relating to allegations towards a Scientologist and his faith. Would you interview a white supremacist to touch upon allegations towards an African American? An anti-Semite to touch upon allegations towards a member of the Jewish religion? Apparently, Variety thinks it’s acceptable to show this contemptible view of Scientology; it’s not.

As to the pending Bixler civil motion, you discuss with a press release from Ortega that the plaintiffs suing the Church declare that the Church labored to make sure that no expenses have been filed towards Masterson and that Chrissie Carnell was informed in 2016 to take her case to the LAPD downtown, and to not the Hollywood Division, as a result of that division was “coopted” by Scientology. That allegation is a whole fabrication invented by Leah Remini. It was Leah Remini who employed an off-duty LAPD detective and then tried to have him, improperly, use his official place to ahead her marketing campaign of harassment of the Church. You additionally repeat the falsehood that the Church discouraged two of the three victims from reporting to the police. We have now mentioned earlier than and say once more, these allegations, and others within the Bixler grievance, are categorically unfaithful. Plaintiffs’ counsel has not supplied us with a single scrap of paper or every other proof supporting the claims of harassment offered within the lawsuit. The grievance was filed final August, and motions to dismiss can be heard this coming September. As all through this course of, the Church stays steadfast that the allegations towards it are fully and totally false. The Church will prevail towards these slanderous expenses, because it already has within the two different circumstances introduced by the identical unscrupulous attorneys.

When you are counting on Tony Ortega as your supply, make sure you additionally embrace his earlier feedback about this civil litigation and Plaintiffs’ authorized crew: “Two of them are lifeless already.”; “Will we see any extra lawsuits from this crew which has already gotten its ass kicked twice?”; “What a shit present.” Or did he not give you these feedback through the interview you’re asking us to touch upon?

In contrast to Tony Ortega, the Church is native, it’s proper down the road from you. We have now been a part of constructing our shared neighborhood for many years. But Variety solely chooses to run an article on the Church when prompted by a non secular bigot hundreds of miles away. Variety ought to study its personal biases and prejudices in contemplating the way it got here to this low level.

Ortega replies:

The common sliming.

The donations coverage for my web site is listed at my About web page. Like so many different on-line journalists I take donations from readers, however I take the additional step of getting my legal professional, Scott Pilutik, deal with all donations in order that the identities of my donors shouldn’t be handed on to me. So no, I’m not on the payroll of any explicit donor.

This assures the independence of the Underground Bunker, which is the factor that actually causes the Church of Scientology such heartburn.

Replace: Karen de la Carriere provides her response to the church’s declare that she funds Ortega’s weblog.

I don’t finance Tony Ortega’s weblog and by no means have. The matter at hand is the extraordinarily severe felony rape expenses towards Danny Masterson and Scientology’s position in trying to cowl up these expenses through the years by utilizing its affect on the LAPD.

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