The civil lawsuit brought against actor Danny Masterson must be heard through arbitration with the Church of Scientology rather than a courtroom. That’s the most important takeaway from a ruling handed down by the Los Angeles Superior Court. Judge Steven Kleifield ruled that because there was already an existing arbitration agreement in place, this current lawsuit, filed in August of 2019, by four women who claimed they were stalked and intimidated after making allegations against Masterson, must be heard through “religious arbitration.”
The court order was obtained by People, and it states the arbitration will be held on June 30, 2021. The women at the center of the case were apparently hoping for a civil trial that was not mediated by the Church Of Scientology, but all but one were reportedly members of the Church and signed agreements saying they wouldn’t sue, per Fox News. As such, it seems the one plaintiff who did not sign the agreement could file a separate civil lawsuit, but it’s unclear if that’s going to happen.
This civil case is separate from the ongoing criminal proceedings against Danny Masterson, though it involves many of the same parties and some of the same allegations. The LA District Attorney’s Office charged the actor and former star of That 70s Show and The Ranch with three counts of rape by force or fear. All of the alleged assaults took place between 2001 and 2003, and if convicted on all of the counts, he could be sentenced to 45 years to life in prison. The trial is set to begin on January 6th.
The civil lawsuit evolved from the criminal matter. Four of the victims and one of their spouses joined together to file a lawsuit claiming they were harassed after they came forward with their stories to police. One claims her dogs were poisoned. Others say they received harassing phone calls, threats and property damage, allegedly to intimidate them against cooperating. There is also ongoing legal action against the Church Of Scientology itself, and some of the women have claimed efforts were also made to keep the story out of the press.
Masterson’s attorney Andrew Brettler called the judge’s decision on the arbitration the “correct result” and said his client would participate in arbitration. The actor has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. His criminal attorney, Thomas Mesereau, released the following statement back in June…
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. Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out. The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.
At this point, it’s unclear if the plaintiffs will simply accept the arbitration with the Church of Scientology or if they’ll appeal or push for some other kind of resolution. With Masterson’s trial beginning this week, it’s likely there will be some resolution in that matter prior to the currently scheduled arbitration date at the end of June. We will keep you updated with any new developments.